01/02/2014 06:32 EST | Updated 03/04/2014 05:59 EST

Calgary H1N1: Flu Shot Clinics See People Line Up For Hours

CALGARY - Health officials are confirming five people have died from an outbreak of H1N1 influenza in Alberta.

Three of the deaths were in Edmonton, two in Calgary.

There are now 965 confirmed cases of the flu in Alberta and 270 of those people are in hospital.

Dr. Gerry Predy, senior medical officer of health, says the largest numbers have been seen in the last three weeks, which is typical in the development of a flu outbreak.

Alberta Health is opening mass immunization clinics again in many communities on Friday.

In addition, free flu shots are available at most drug stores and doctors' offices.

Predy says they’ll watch what happens when children go back to school, however he stresses that’s not always the best predictor of H1N1 because a B.C. study has shown younger immune systems seem to respond differently.

AHS is also predicting the liklihood of elective surgeries being cancelled, as was the case last week.

More than 200 people lined up for flu shots at one of two Calgary clinics on Thursday.

Many waiting on line said the clinics were their only option, as doctors and pharmacies weren't able to keep up with the demand.

Also, pharmacies cannot give influenza shots to children under the age of nine.

Dr. Judy MacDonald, Calgary's medical officer of health, says the numbers are only the tip of the iceberg, as not everyone who gets the flu goes to the doctor or hospital, adding there’s at least another three months left in the flu season.

She says it's hard to say what’s behind a spike in cases of the illness this year, adding its unclear if there’s an increase or if this is just media attention.

“It’s not unusual to have influenza outbreaks, and what that does is sometimes results in a facility or a unit being closed, but not always,” she said.


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