12/30/2013 04:54 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 01:38 EST

Alberta Flu Cases On The Rise, Immunization Clinics Open In Calgary, Edmonton

young woman getting vaccine in...

Health officials are encouraging Albertans to get immunized, as a severe strain of the flu circulates the province, infecting hundreds.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) has opened mass influenza immunization clinics in Calgary and Edmonton, after two deaths and an uptick in confirmed cases.

Dr. Judy MacDonald, a medical officer with AHS, told the Calgary Herald in a 24-hour period over the weekend, 33 new lab-confirmed cases were reported in Calgary, including 13 needing hospitalization.

“The lab-confirmed case are only a small number of actual cases. Most people who get the flu don’t actually get a lab test,” Dr. Gerry Predy, senior medical officer with AHS, told CTV Edmonton.

“People just need to be aware that influenza is not like many of the other viruses. It’s not a cold and it can cause very severe illness in people of all ages,” Predy explained to Global News.

The Calgary Sun reports 101 flu cases in Calgary have been H1N1-specific so far - the most cases seen in Alberta since the pandemic in 2009.

According to Global, two people have died from the H1N1 strain in Alberta this season - one in Calgary and one in Edmonton - and hundreds have been hospitalized.

Predy says this H1N1 strain has been around for about five years and hits people in their 30s, 40s and 50s harder than seniors, who usually get very ill with other strains.

He says the number of cases will increase as children head back to school following Christmas vacation.

In Calgary, two clinics - one at Brentwood Village Mall and one at South Calgary Health Centre - will be open Dec. 27 and 28, Jan. 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8, from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Edmontonians can visit the Bonnie Doon Health Centre on Jan. 3 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Northgate Health Centre Dec. 30 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or Jan. 3 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and West Jasper Place Health Centre on Dec. 30 from 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Albertans aged six months and older are eligible for the free immunization.

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