01/10/2014 12:30 EST | Updated 03/12/2014 05:59 EDT

Nova Scotia reports two flu-related deaths, urges people to get immunized

HALIFAX - Health officials in Nova Scotia are urging middle-aged residents to get an influenza vaccination after two people in that age group with underlying health conditions died of the H1N1 strain.

Frank Atherton, the province's deputy chief public health officer, said people over 65 and children under five are normally the most vulnerable, but this flu season has seen a slight increase in the number of middle-aged people affected by the virus.

"It looks like this is a fairly normal flu season in terms of the number of cases, the number of hospitalizations and the number of deaths," he said Friday.

"What's different this year is that the main burden of illness... is occurring in middle-aged adults rather than the seniors population, which normally bares the brunt of influenza-related illness."

Atherton would not divulge the ages of the two victims, but he said they were both under 65.

It's believed that many seniors can cope with the H1N1 virus because they have been exposed to it in the past or had flu vaccinations in previous years that gives them partial protection, he said.

"People in the adult years who perhaps have been tending less to have vaccinations and may not have suffered as much flu in the past, they're more vulnerable because they've not encountered the virus before."

Atherton said between two and 10 people die of the flu each year in Nova Scotia.

The government says there have been 19 confirmed cases since the first infections were reported in early December.

The Department of Health and Wellness says about 435,000 doses of influenza vaccine have been given out this year, the most it has ever provided.

Almost 11,000 doses are on hold with the manufacturer and most of that lot will be shipped to Nova Scotia and distributed next week, the department said.