Alberta manages flu season with ‘longstanding practice’, says new top doc in first statement

his first statement As Alberta’s new Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Mark Joffe says the province will manage the annual flu season by “returning to longstanding practices for managing respiratory infections.”

Local public health officials will notify the school of the outbreak and will provide support and advice as needed.

“Winter is historically the peak season for respiratory infections,” he said in a Nov. 16 statement. “Like other jurisdictions, Alberta has seen an early rise in seasonal infections such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19, and a tough season is expected.”

Joffe said Australian flu season often predicts what the flu will be like when it hits Canada.

“Australia has had a serious respiratory virus season this year,” Joffe said.

Based on results from Australia, he expects Canadian children and teenagers to have the highest rates of influenza, with children under the age of 16 accounting for the majority of hospitalizations. He said it could have an impact.

“Most children, adolescents and adults will recover from the flu without complications, but some will become severe enough to require hospital treatment. Similar results can be expected in Alberta. In recent weeks, Alberta has seen an increase in reports of symptoms such as coughs and fevers in schools and nurseries,” he said.

Joffe succeeded Dr. Deena Hinshaw on November 14th. It’s a move that Alberta Prime Minister Daniel Smith promised during his first press conference as prime minister on Oct. 11. It’s part of “a new phase where we’re talking about treating the coronavirus as endemic, just like the flu.”

public health advice

Smith has previously said he would not go back to making masks mandatory, especially for school children.

Some of Joffe’s recommendations are like public health advice that would have been included before the COVID-19 lockdown during flu season. Stay home when sick, cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. If you are sick, wash your hands with soap and warm water or use a sanitizer, avoid other sick people, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Joffe suggested that people in Alberta can get flu shots at pharmacies and community clinics. He said Albertans can “choose to stay up to date” on vaccinations and wear high-quality masks.

“Albertans should be supported whether they wear masks or not,” he said.

Joffe has considerable experience with infectious diseases. He previously served as Chairman of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Medical Staff Association, and he served two terms as President of the Metropolitan Medical Staff Association. He is President of the Canadian Society of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases and holds a Specialist Certificate in Internal Medicine and a Certificate of Special Competence in Infectious Diseases from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

A native of Calgary, Joffe is also Professor of Medicine at the University of Alberta School of Medicine and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta and the Stanford University School of Medicine.

He will receive no additional compensation for his role as Chief Medical Officer.

Marnie Cathcart


Marnie Cathcart is a reporter based in Edmonton.