June 11, 2009
FREDERICTON (CNB) - The province is in a heightened state of surveillance for the H1N1 virus, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eilish Cleary confirmed today. The announcement came as the World Health Organization (WHO) increased its pandemic alert to Phase 6.
"WHO is responsible for monitoring this situation on a global level," said Cleary. "Its declaration of Phase 6 today is a reflection of how the virus is spreading internationally. While it is not an indication of a change in the situation in New Brunswick, current outbreaks around the world, including in Canada, are considered."
Cleary said that New Brunswick has been monitoring the situation very closely since April, when the outbreak first began.
"We remain at a heightened level of surveillance," said Cleary. "We want to be ready for all eventualities. We may see some cases over the summer, although it is more likely that we will see more activity in the fall, which is consistent with usual flu behaviour."
Cleary is also concerned about outbreaks in vulnerable populations. High infection rates in Aboriginal communities in northeastern Manitoba and in Nunavut have caught the attention of WHO. More than half of the 27 Manitobans on hospital ventilators have been Aboriginal.
New Brunswick's Health Emergency Operations Centre has been operational since April, and the province has been acting on its pandemic plan. Provincial pandemic plans were developed in concert with the Public Health Agency of Canada and other provinces and territories, and include Aboriginal communities.
WHO's phase-assessment is based primarily on the spread of the disease, not necessarily its severity. WHO raised its alert level to Phase 6 today in response to more sustained community-level transmissions in parts of Europe, Asia, Australia, and Canada. It is currently characterizing the global severity of the disease as moderate.
MEDIA CONTACT: Meghan Cumby, communications, Department of Health, 506-457-3522.