Health officials monitoring swine flu outbreak (09/04/27)

NB 564

April 27, 2009

FREDERICTON (CNB) - The Department of Health has been closely monitoring the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico, the United States and now Canada since Monday, April 20.


Dr. Eilish Cleary, chief medical officer of health, said the department and other provincial and territorial public health agencies have been working with the Public Health Agency of Canada soon after the outbreak began in Mexico.

"There are confirmed cases of human swine influenza linked to the Mexico and United States cases in Nova Scotia and elsewhere in Canada, but there have been no confirmed cases reported in New Brunswick to date," said Cleary. "One of the things health officials are trying to determine about the disease is why the Canadian and United States cases are mild, compared with the severe cases in Mexico."

The Department of Health is closely monitoring the situation and making all necessary preparations along with other provincial and territorial public health agencies and the Public Health Agency of Canada, which is working with its international partners. This monitoring includes watching for potential cases of swine flu in Canadians.

"If you are sick enough to see your doctor, and have just returned to New Brunswick from Mexico or the United States, mention your travel history to your doctor," said Cleary. "Your doctor will determine if you need to be tested. If you have just returned from Mexico or the United States but are not sick enough to see your doctor, do not visit your health-care facility simply because you have been traveling."

Cleary is advising New Brunswickers to take routine precautions. General hygienic practices, such as washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when ill, can help to reduce transmission of most viruses, including the human swine influenza.

There is a risk that any new influenza virus could develop into a pandemic if the virus passes easily from human-to-human. The H1N1 swine influenza, which is causing the outbreak, is a new virus. While there is evidence of human-to-human transmission, more investigation and information is needed to determine the severity of this disease and the way it can spread.

In the event of a pandemic, New Brunswick has a pandemic response plan similar to other provinces and territories, which aligns with the national pandemic plan. As part of this plan, the department has been stockpiling necessary supplies, including antiviral medications and immunization supplies, which are stored in a secure but accessible location.

Cleary added that evidence suggests the H1N1 flu strain can be treated with the antiviral medications oseltamavir and zanamivir, which the department has stockpiled.

The Government of Canada has capacity to produce enough pandemic vaccine for all Canadians in the event of a pandemic. Once a pandemic strain has been identified, it will take between three to six months for an effective vaccine to be developed and tested.

The Department of Health is continuing to work closely with its partners and will issue public updates as they become available and / or necessary.


MEDIA CONTACT: Meghan Cumby, communications, Department of Health, 506-457-3522.