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Thank you, Minister, and good afternoon, everyone.
While our efforts have been largely focussed on COVID-19 the past few years, my team continues to work on other issues impacting the health of Albertans.
So I would like to start today by talking briefly about avian influenza and human health implications.
Avian influenza is a disease that occurs naturally among wild aquatic birds, and can spread to domestic poultry as well as other birds and animals.
Currently, there are several farms in Alberta with the virus in their flocks and some wild birds in the province in whom the virus has been found.
Our colleagues at Alberta Agriculture and Alberta Environment are working closely with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to mange the animal health implications.
But I know Albertans involved with these farms or living in these communities may have questions on what this means for their personal health.
What is most important to know is there have been no cases in people in Alberta, and it is very rare for people to be infected with avian influenza.
There is currently one case under investigation in the United States, however this involves an individual who had very close contact with infected poultry.
This week, AHS public health nurses will be calling impacted farmers to discuss human health information, and ways to keep their families, workers, and others on their farms healthy.
We have also received questions on whether it is safe to consume poultry or poultry products such as eggs, particularly from hunters or individuals with small backyard flocks.
This food is safe to eat if properly cooked.
Avian influenza virus is destroyed at the temperatures required to cook meat or eggs as would routinely be done.
I encourage Albertans to visit alberta.ca if they any other questions about avian influenza.
Alberta Health has information related to public health, and both Agriculture and Environment have information related to animal health available.
For anyone with a small backyard poultry flock, if you have not already signed up with Alberta Agriculture to receive information that may be relevant to you and your flock, you can do so on their website.
A more common risk that I also want to highlight today is seasonal influenza.
We are experiencing a rise in seasonal influenza with levels higher than they have been at any time in the past two years.
In Alberta, we have had more than 700 cases diagnosed this season, with the vast majority identified in the past two months.
Of these, 68 people have needed hospital care, and three have needed care in the ICU.
Actions to lower the risk of influenza infection are the same as those we need to continue for COVID - washing our hands regularly, staying home if sick, and for those at higher risk of severe outcomes, considering actions like wearing masks when in public places.
Turning to today’s COVID-19 update…
Between Tuesday, April 26th and Monday, May 2nd, our PCR test positivity rate ranged from 21 to 27.3 per cent with an average of 23 per cent for the week.
This is a slight decrease from the previous week.
As the Minister mentioned, hospitalizations have increased slightly from last week and currently, there are 1,267 people with COVID in hospital, including 46 in the ICU.
Sadly, between April 26th and May 2nd, 69 deaths related to COVID-19 were reported to Alberta Health, with an average of approximately 10 per day.
The individuals whose deaths were reported over the past week were between the ages of 28 and 102.
My thoughts are with every Albertan grieving the loss of someone they cared about, no matter the cause.
Whether we are grieving the loss of a loved one, experiencing illness ourselves, or adjusting to a transition to a more-normal life, the last few years have taken a toll on all of us.
So as this week is Mental Health Week, I would like to recognize the complex emotions many of us are feeling right now, and the fact that Albertans continue to wrestle with the effects of this pandemic in many ways.
Depression and anxiety in us or in those we care about are just some of the ways that these impacts can show up.
If you or someone you know is having these struggles, or if dealing with stress or uncertainty feels overwhelming or is interfering with daily life, I urge you to seek support.
Free, non-judgemental help is available for anyone who needs it. A list of comprehensive resources is available at alberta.ca/mentalhealth.
Albertans can also call 211 any time – day or night – for mental health support.
And no matter what you are struggling with, I want you to know you are not alone. It takes courage to reach out for help, and that help is there for you.
I’d like to end today by encouraging each of us to find ways this week to employ compassion, both for ourselves and those around us.
That could include practicing self-care strategies such as exercise, eating well or using mindfulness techniques.
It could also mean reaching out to a loved one, or someone in their community to see how they are doing.
We need each other, as we always have, and making time to show we care can have positive impacts, far beyond a single moment.
There are a lot of challenges that face us, and all of them are easier to manage when we work on them together.
Thank you, and we’re happy to take questions.