Medical school warns students to get flu shots amidst rise in H1N1

By Riley Hill

Professors at the University of Calgary medical school are urging students to get their flu shots amid a surge of H1N1 influenza cases across the province.

While seasonal spikes in influenza are nothing new, Alberta has been hit particularly hard this year due to the return of H1N1.

U of C medical professor Dr. James Dickinson warned that even young, healthy students are at risk of contracting and spreading the virus.

“Influenza attacks younger people, then they are the mixing vessel that transmits the virus onto other people,” Dickinson said. “Young people often get a quite severe attack.”

Over 1,000 cases of H1N1 have already been reported in Alberta this year, causing 9 deaths.

The virus made international headlines in 2009 when the World Health Organization declared an H1N1 pandemic. Sixty-four Albertans died from the virus that year.

To fight its spread, Alberta Health Services vaccinated tens of thousands of Albertans in 2009. But Dickinson said those vaccinated for the virus four years ago are not immune to the strain spreading through Alberta this year.

“We can only guarantee the effectiveness of the vaccine for one year,” Dickinson said. “As time goes on, the effectiveness tapers off.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that up to 153,000 worldwide were infected with the virus in 2009, causing between 2,500–6,000 deaths.

Students can get vaccinated at the Wellness Centre.

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