Public Health Agency of Canada

Public Health Agency of Canada

May 07, 2009 17:02 ET

Government of Canada Provides Update on H1N1 Flu Virus

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 7, 2009) - The Honourable Leona Aglukaaq, Canada's Minister of Health, and Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, today confirmed an additional 13 cases of H1N1 flu virus (three in Alberta, two in Saskatchewan, seven in Ontario and one in Quebec) bringing the total Canadian count to 214.

"We continue to see new cases confirmed in Canada, but it is important to remember that this is to be expected with any influenza outbreak," said Minister Aglukaaq, "The surveillance information that we're receiving is a testament to the good work that's being done in regions across Canada by healthcare workers who are looking for this virus and reporting it up to the national level."

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has gathered background information from provinces and territories on the majority of the confirmed cases, and has developed an epidemiological analysis of this information. From what information is available, PHAC can confirm.

- The majority of the cases (97%) are under the age of 50

- The median age of Canadian cases is 22 years

- There are no cases among people over the age of 66

- The majority of cases are linked to travel to Mexico

"The more we know about this virus, the more we can refine our national response to the outbreak," said Dr. David-Butler Jones, Chief Public Health Officer. "This information will help inform the recommendations the Public Health Agency of Canada put forward in terms of treatment and infection control measures."

The Public Health Agency of Canada would like to underline that influenza viruses are not known to be transmissible to people through eating prepared pork products. As is recommended for all meat, proper cooking, (to an internal temperature of 70 degrees C/160 degrees F) and keeping raw meat separate from other foods, is important when preparing pork in order to lower the risk of foodborne diseases, like salmonella and e.coli. This point was clarified in a joint statement issued today by the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization, and World Organization for Animal Health

For more information on the H1N1 flu virus, visit www.fightflu.ca.

INFORMATION MAY 2009

H1N1 FLU VIRUS: BACKGROUND ON GOVERNMENT ACTIONS

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

Public Information:

- Print ads that provide Canadians with information and advice have appeared in major daily newspapers across Canada, as well as newspapers in First Nations and Inuit communities;

- In addition to posting regular updates and guidance for the public, health professionals and travellers on its website (www.fightflu.gc.ca), the Public Health Agency of Canada has made its information more easily accessible via Internet searches on Google, and is also disseminating its recommendations through a variety of social media tools including Facebook, Twitter, and others;

- Information is available online at www.fightflu.ca. Frequently asked questions have been posted to the Public Health Agency of Canada website www.phac.gc.ca;

- A public advisory has been issued advising Canadians not to purchase products claiming to fight or prevent H1N1 flu virus.

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

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

Information for Travellers:

- A travel health advisory has been issued advising Canadians on the precautions they should take when travelling outside of North America;

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

- 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;

- Hand-outs with information and advice have been prepared for travellers entering Canada. Distribution has begun; and,

- Health-related posters with information and advice are being put up in all major airports across Canada;

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 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:

- The Public Health Agency of Canada is assisting Mexico by testing H1N1 flu virus specimens in its laboratory;

- Canadian laboratory scientists and 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.

- Canada's missions abroad are providing information to trade partners and importers highlighting the safety of Canadian pork and swine products.

- In countries where an import ban is being considered or has been imposed, we are talking to the key agencies and officials to help them make an informed decision and recognize that Canadian pork is safe.

- Through its international network of embassies and consulates, DFAIT is actively providing consular assistance and support to Canadian citizens abroad, including Canadians affected by H1N1 quarantine measures in China.

Screening and Border Security:

- Border Services Officers are currently screening incoming travellers if they have come from an infected area to determine whether they have any H1N1 flu virus symptoms. They are also providing all incoming travellers to Canada with advice, on symptoms, preventative measures and what to do if they become ill.

- Quarantine Officers are now stationed at every Canadian airport receiving direct flights from Mexico to assess any ill passengers and to provide advice and direction when treatment is needed. Their work is being done in close co-operation with Border Services Officers.

- Participants in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program from Mexico are being medically screened prior to departure for Canada to ensure they are currently not experiencing symptoms or signs of the flu. Workers showing any of these symptoms or signs are not permitted to board planes to Canada.

Monitoring and Coordination:

- The Public Health Agency of Canada's Emergency Operations Centre is at full activation and is 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.

- Scientists at Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory have decoded the genetic make-up of the H1N1 flu virus. This marks a significant achievement that will allow Canadian and international scientists to learn more about the virus and how to slow its spread.

Food Safety:

- The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has posted the following three fact sheets on its website (www.inspection.gc.ca) about H1N1 flu virus and swine influenza:

- Questions and Answers about H1N1 flu virus and swine influenza;

- Food Safety Facts for Consumers;

- Advice for Veterinarians and Swine Producers

Business Community:

- The Government of Canada is consulting on an ongoing basis with federal financial regulators, financial sector stakeholders, and key emergency preparedness partners to ensure that financial institutions and critical infrastructure providers are prepared for an escalating pandemic situation.

- A bulletin has been issued to all federally regulated employers to remind them of their obligations to ensure the health and safety of their employees in their workplaces. As an example, employers must develop, implement, and monitor a program for the prevention of hazards in the workplace.

- A bulletin has been issued to all Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) employers to remind them that they are responsible for the health and safety of their workers. If a worker exhibits symptoms of human swine influenza, SAWP employers should contact a health professional as soon as possible and isolate them from other workers.

Employee Communications:

- The Government of Canada has been providing its employees with advice and information about the H1N1 Flu Virus including preventative measures.

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.

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Contact Information

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