H1N1 deaths drive a surge in demand for flu vaccine

H1N1 vaccine demand is up. Pictured: Mexico City residents take other measures to protect themselves in 2009.
H1N1 vaccine demand is up. Pictured: Mexico City residents take other measures to protect themselves in 2009. Photo by Eneas de Troya, CC BY 2.0

Reports the H1N1 flu virus is circulating in North America have prompted a surge in demand for vaccines in Canada. While health authorities typically welcome increased uptake of flu vaccines, the spike in demand has left parts of the country with dwindling stocks.

This week Alberta bought 65,000 more flu vaccines--which its health chief called the last available batch on the plant--but still expects to be out of stock by the end of the week. The predicted shortage is the result the fact that one million Albertans, almost 25% of people living in the Canadian province, received the flu vaccine. Strong uptake of the vaccine follows reports of widespread circulation of H1N1, the strain that circulated in the 2009 pandemic and hits young to middle-aged adults particularly hard.

H1N1 has been blamed for the deaths of 10 people in Alberta, the Toronto Sun reports, and has also killed young adults in the U.S. "Early indications from other provinces suggest that some serious infections are occurring in young and middle-age adults and children under five during this flu season," deputy chief medical officer of health in Nova Scotia Frank Atherton told the paper. Hospitals in Alberta have received 300 patients with flu-like symptoms and put 40 people into intensive care units.

Canada now has another influenza strain to worry about, too. Canadian health authorities have confirmed the first H5N1 bird flu death in North America. The infected person first showed symptoms while flying back to Canada from Beijing, the BBC reports. "The risk of getting H5N1 is very low. This is not the regular seasonal flu. This is an isolated case," Canadian health minister Rona Ambrose said.

- read the Toronto Sun article
- here's Metro News' take
- check out the BBC piece

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