Public Health Agency of Canada

Public Health Agency of Canada

April 29, 2009 22:57 ET

Government of Canada to Provide Laboratory Testing Support to Government of Mexico

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 29, 2009) - Canada's Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq and Mexico's Minister of Health Dr. Jose Angel Cordova today announced that the Government of Canada has accepted the Government of Mexico's request to assist with laboratory testing of viral samples.

The Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory has already begun testing the 200 specimens from patients in Mexico with severe respiratory illness.

"In the spirit of international collaboration, and as part of our North American approach to this situation, we are pleased to assist the Government of Mexico with testing of virus samples," said Minister Aglukkaq. "This is not only an example of international collaboration. It's the right thing to do. We know by now that infectious diseases just don't respect borders, and so anything we can do to help our neighbours helps us protect our own citizens as well."

"The Mexican Government welcomes Canada's support," said Dr. Jose Angel Cordova. "We are working closely with Canada on gathering the scientific evidence necessary to help stop the spread of the virus."

For both countries, providing early scientific information is key to having an accurate and efficient response to the outbreak and to establishing effective prevention and mitigation actions.

Several Government of Canada departments including the Public Health Agency of Canada, Foreign Affairs Canada, Public Safety, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Border Services Agency, worked quickly last night to coordinate the arrival of the shipment which arrived by plane in Winnipeg.

The National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) is Canada's leading public health infectious disease laboratory, and is responsible for the identification, control and prevention of infectious diseases. It is recognized as a leading facility in an elite group of 15 centres around the world, equipped with laboratories ranging from biosafety level 2 to level 4 designed to accommodate the most basic to the most deadly infectious organisms.

Canadian and Mexican public health officials continue to monitor this situation closely in collaboration with their international partners. Additional information on this situation will be shared by each country as it becomes available.

Canadians are encouraged to access updated information on Human Swine Influenza through the Public Health Agency of Canada's website, www.phac-aspc.gc.ca or by calling 1-800-454-8302.


INFORMATION

BACKGROUND ON GOVERNMENT ACTIONS

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

- 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 human swine influenza.

- 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 incoming travellers to Canada to remind them of simple health precautions; and

- 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