There have been four outbreaks of influenza in southern Alberta during the past three weeks while a strain of norovirus has also continued to spread around the region.
And the worst of it may be yet to come for both, says Dr. Vivien Suttorp, medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services' south zone.
"Usually we see a peak in the end of January. It's quite new for seeing that at this time of year. All across the province we're being hit quite hard with influenza and influenza outbreaks," she said.
"We're still seeing a steady increase in confirmed influenza cases. That does not include all those others out there who may have influenza. Not everybody seeks medical attention and so we don't have a lab report for everybody. It's the tip of the iceberg from lab confirmation is what we're seeing."
Influenza and norovirus are completely different illnesses, Suttorp pointed out, even though there is a common misconception that they are just known as the flu. This is not the case.
Symptoms of influenza include fever, cough, muscle aches, sore throat. It is preventable with a vaccine. There were more than 35,000 doses administered by AHS in the south zone as of Dec. 29.
Outbreaks occur when sick people are in close quarters, such as the workplace and schools. There were eight influenza outbreaks in April 2012 after none in the region for five years.
Norovirus, meanwhile, consists of a stomach illness with the common symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting. There is no vaccine and it usually works its way out of someone's system in four to seven days.
Suttorp notes that although norovirus and influenza are separate entities, their preventative measures are similar.
The most basic steps are washing your hands, avoid handling food when you're sick and staying home to avoid further spreading of the illnesses.