Three Edmontonians died from the flu over a three-week period over the holiday season, doubling the total influenza-caused deaths in the city this season.
Between Dec. 14-Jan. 4, three Edmonton residents died as a result of the flu, Alberta Health Services said in its weekly report Thursday.
They were the only three flu-related deaths in this period across the province, bringing the total to nine. Before Dec. 14, three people in Edmonton died from the flu as well as one fatality in Calgary and the south and north zones of AHS. There were 52 flu deaths in Alberta in the 2018-19 season.
Across the province, Edmonton has also had the most hospitalizations as a result of the flu with 211, compared to Calgary with 179. There have been 489 confirmed cases of Influenza A and 197 cases of Influenza B in the city, the report said.
More than 428,000 Edmontonians have gotten the flu vaccine this season, which is offered for free at public health clinics, doctor’s offices and pharmacies across the city. About 1.3 million Albertans have been immunized this year, already more than the 31 per cent higher than last season. The provincial government paid $12.5 million for the influenza vaccine this season, enough to immunize 35 per cent of the population.
Advisers to the World Health Organization will consider next month whether to add liraglutide, the active ingredient in certain diabetes and obesity medications, to its list of essential medicines.
The list, which is updated every two years, includes medicines “that satisfy the priority health needs of the population,” WHO says. “They are intended to be available within the context of function health systems at all times, in adequate amounts in the appropriate dosage forms, of assured quality and at prices that individuals and the community can afford.”
Jeremy Mitchell and family
Courtesy Jeremy Mitchell
As the market for new weight loss drugs soars, people with diabetes pay the price
The list is “a guide for the development and updating of national and institutional essential medicine lists to support the procurement and supply of medicines in the public sector, medicines reimbursement schemes, medicine donations, and local medicine production.”
The WHO Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Medicines is scheduled to meet April 24-28 to discuss revisions and updates involving dozens of medications. The request to add GLP-1 receptor agonists such as liraglutide came from four researchers at US institutions including Yale University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
These drugs mimic the effects of an appetite-regulating hormone, GLP-1, and stimulate the release of insulin. This helps lower blood sugar and slows the passage of food through the gut. Liraglutide was developed to treat diabetes but approved in the US as a weight-loss treatment in 2014; its more potent cousin, semaglutide, has been approved for diabetes since 2017 and as an obesity treatment in 2021.
Ozempic prescriptions can be easy to get online. Its popularity for weight loss is hurting those who need it most
The latter use has become well-known thanks to promotions from celebrities and on social media. It’s sold under the name Ozempic for diabetes and Wegovy for weight loss. Studies suggest that semaglutide may help people lose an average of 10% to 15% of their starting weight – significantly more than with other medications. But because of this high demand, some versions of the medication have been in shortage in the US since the middle of last year.
The US patent on liraglutide is set to expire this year, and drugmaker Novo Nordisk says generic versions could be available in June 2024.
The company has not been involved in the application to WHO, it said in a statement, but “we welcome the WHO review and look forward to the readout and decision.”
“At present, there are no medications included in the [Essential Medicines List] that specifically target weight loss for the global burden of obesity,” the researchers wrote in their request to WHO. “At this time, the EML includes mineral supplements for nutritional deficiencies yet it is also described that most of the population live in ‘countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.’ “
WHO’s advisers will make recommendations on which drugs should be included in this year’s list, expected to come in September.
“This particular drug has a certain history, but the use of it probably has not been long enough to be able to see it on the Essential Medicines List,” Dr. Francesco Blanca, WHO director for nutrition and food safety, said at a briefing Wednesday. “There’s also issues related to the cost of the treatment. At the same time, WHO is looking at the use of drugs to reduce weight excess in the context of a systematic review for guidelines for children and adolescents. So we believe that it is a work in progress, but we’ll see what the Essential Medicines List committee is going to conclude.”
Re-emerging levels of respiratory illness have caused increased patient numbers at the HSC Children’s pediatric intensive care unit over the last week, and some non-urgent procedures may be postponed, Shared Health says.
On Thursday morning, there were 17 pediatric patients in the intensive care unit, and a considerable number of which were already experiencing health issues that were aggravated by respiratory illness. The unit’s normal baseline is nine, Shared Health said in a Thursday media release.
The release said patient volumes at the children’s emergency department are stable but more children with flu-like symptoms have been recorded coming in over the last two weeks, going from a low of 22 in mid-March to 47 on Wednesday.
A variety of respiratory illnesses are spreading through the community and have contributed to the increased level of patients in the pediatric intensive care unit, according to Shared Health.
Meanwhile, the number of patients in the neonatal intensive care unit was at 51 on Thursday morning, which is slightly above the unit’s normal baseline capacity of 50.
Ten staff are being temporarily reassigned to the pediatric intensive care unit to deal with the increased level of patients, the release said.
Some staff are being pulled from the pediatric surgical and recovery units, which means non-urgent procedures may be postponed due to the reassignments, Shared Health said.
Families of patients impacted by the postponements will be contacted, they said, and all urgent and life-threatening surgeries will go unhindered.
Families can protect their children from respiratory illnesses by limiting their contact with people exhibiting cold-like symptoms, washing their hands frequently and staying up to date on vaccinations, Shared Health said.
Patient volumes increased last month
While overall wait times at emergency and urgent care centres were stable in February, Shared Health said daily patient volumes in the province went up.
The daily average of patients seeking care was 750 last month, which is an increase from 730.4 in January, according to a separate Thursday news release.
The average length of stay for patients in emergency or urgent care units to be transferred to an inpatient unit went down to 21.77 hours last month, which is an improvement from 22.5 hours in January, the release said.
The overall number of people who left without being seen went down last month, from 13 per cent in January to 12.1 per cent in February, according to Shared Health. It also decreased at the HSC emergency department, from 25 per cent in January to 23.4 per cent last month.
Shared Health is reminding Manitobans to continue to call 911 in case of an emergency, and said the sickest and most injured patients will remain their priority.
March 30, 2023 – The Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU) and Southbridge Pinewood confirm that the respiratory outbreak on Kingfisher and Sandpiper Units, located at 2625 Walsh St. E, has been declared over. All outbreak restrictions have been lifted.
TBDHU recommends the public refrain from visiting hospitals, long-term care facilities and other high risk settings when feeling unwell to avoid spreading infections to those most vulnerable and at higher risk of severe outcomes.
The Health Unit reminds the public that they can prevent getting and spreading infections by:
Staying at home when sick.
Wearing a well-fitted mask in indoor spaces, especially when around vulnerable people or when recovering from illness.
Keeping up-to-date with influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations.
Washing hands often, for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water, or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Covering coughs/sneezes with the upper sleeve if no tissue is available.
Being familiar with the Ontario screening tool, to self-assess and know what to do next.