Public Health Agency of Canada

Public Health Agency of Canada

April 30, 2009 20:38 ET

Government of Canada Provides Further Update on Prevention Measures Being Taken Regarding H1N1 Flu Virus (Human Swine Flu)

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 30, 2009) - Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. David Butler-Jones today provided an update to Canadians on further actions that have been taken by the Government of Canada in the management of the H1N1 flu virus (human swine flu) outbreak. The federal government continues to work closely with the provinces and territories and international partners to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

A total of 15 cases of H1N1 flu virus (human swine flu) were confirmed today, including five additional cases in British Columbia, four in Alberta, one in Ontario, one in Quebec and four in Nova Scotia. This brings the total number of cases in Canada to 34 with 11 cases in British Columbia, six cases in Alberta, eight cases in Ontario, one case in Quebec, and eight cases in Nova Scotia. All cases are the same strain of H1N1 flu virus that has been found in the U.S. and Mexico. To date, all of the confirmed cases in Canada have been mild.

The World Health Organization yesterday changed the pandemic alert level from phase 4 to phase 5. The shift from phase 4 to phase 5 means that human-to-human spread of the virus is confirmed in at least two countries. The WHO has not declared an influenza pandemic, but is signalling that next steps should be taken to finalize organization, communication, and implementation of planned mitigation strategies.

"Canada has been implementing an aggressive approach to the virus for several days based on close information sharing and technical assistance between Canada, US, Mexico and the World Health Organization," said Minister Aglukkaq. "We are a global leader in pandemic planning and are well advanced in implementing our plan to protect Canadians."

"While the pandemic alert level increased yesterday, it does not necessarily mean an immediate increase in risk for Canadians," said Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer. "We take the WHO level very seriously, but we will continue to base our own actions and measures here in Canada on our own situation."

The Government of Canada continues to implement measures in its pandemic plan. These include:

- Increasing our disease surveillance and constantly assessing the information that comes to us from all sources, using it to inform our future actions;

- Continuing to provide healthcare professionals with updated guidelines and advice based on what we know about the disease;

- Ensuring that the National Antiviral Stockpile can be mobilized quickly if it is needed;

- Researching vaccine development and growing the "seed stock" to be used to grow an H1N1 flu virus vaccine;

- Initiating discussions with Glaxo-Smith Kline to begin the process of developing and producing the vaccine in accordance with a standing contract;

- Working with provinces, territories and the health sector to develop protocols and guidelines to mitigate any potential impacts on the healthcare system and the rest of the community if the outbreak escalates; and

- Continuing to communicate widely with Canadians and ensure information is easily accessible to those who need it.

A backgrounder on some of the actions the federal government is taking and the measures Canadians should take to protect themselves is attached.


INFORMATION

BACKGROUND ON GOVERNMENT ACTIONS

The Government of Canada is taking action on a number of fronts, including:

- Public Health Action:

- Increasing our disease surveillance and constantly assessing the information that comes to us from all sources, using it to inform our future actions;

- Ensuring that the National Antiviral Stockpile can be mobilized quickly if it is needed;

- Researching vaccine development and growing the "seed stock" to be used to grow a H1N1 flu virus (human swine flu) vaccine;

- Initiating discussions with Glaxo-Smith Kline to begin the process of developing and producing the vaccine in accordance with a standing contract; and

- Working with provinces, territories and the health sector to develop protocols and guidelines to mitigate any potential impacts on the healthcare system and the rest of the community if the outbreak escalates.

- International Work:

- Quarantine Officers are now stationed at every Canadian airport receiving direct flights from Mexico to assess any ill passengers to provide advice and direction when treatment is needed.

- The Public Health Agency of Canada is assisting Mexico by testing its laboratory specimens for H1N1 flu virus (human swine flu).

- Two Canadian epidemiologists have been dispatched to Mexico to help Mexican officials investigate the outbreak.

- Regular information updates are being provided by the Canadian embassy in Mexico to resident Canadians in that country.

- Public Information:

- A travel health warning has been issued advising Canadians to postpone non-essential travel to Mexico;

- Frequently asked questions have been posted to the Public Health Agency of Canada website www.phac.gc.ca;

- A 1-800 information line, namely 1-800-454-8302, is available seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time) where Canadians can get more information;

- An information bulletin with health advice is being distributed to travellers going to and coming from Mexico to remind them of simple health precautions;

- Information including advice for travelers is being run on television screens in airport terminals;

- Public health guidance documents are being provided to health care professionals.

- Monitoring and Coordination:

- The Government's Emergency Operations Centre has been elevated to full activation (Level 4), operating 24 hours a day and seven days a week;

- Daily coordination and information sharing conference calls are being held with provincial and territorial public health authorities and international partners; and,

- Officials remain vigilant in screening and reporting of unusual influenza-like illnesses, particularly in travellers returning from Mexico.

- Laboratory Testing:

- Provincial and territorial laboratories have been asked to send any unidentifiable influenza viruses and samples from patients with severe respiratory illnesses to Canada's National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg, which is now operating 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

The Public Health Agency advises Canadians to:

- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, or use hand sanitizer.

- Cough and sneeze in your arm or sleeve.

- Keep doing what you normally do, but stay home if sick.

- Check the www.fightflu.ca for more information.

- Check www.voyage.gc.ca for travel notices and advisories.

- Talk to a health professional if you experience flu-like symptoms.

Contact Information

  • Public Health Agency of Canada
    Andrew McDermott
    Media Relations
    613-941-8189