Canada probes suspected swine flu cases after six confirmed, widespread outbreak warned 2009-04-28 03:49:53   Print

    OTTAWA, April 27 (Xinhua) -- Canadian health officials on Monday reported more suspected swine flu cases after six have been confirmed and warned of an outbreak across the country with possible severe or death cases.

    Medical authorities in the eastern province of Ontario said Monday a number of cases of suspected swine flu are being probed and the final result will come out in the next 24 to 48 hours.

    Over the weekend, the eastern province of Nova Scotia and the western province of British Columbia confirmed four and two cases of swine flu respectively. All patients have traveled to Mexico and all have mild symptoms and are recovering.

    However, health officials are warning that Canada now faces a national outbreak with more severe cases and even deaths in the coming days.

    David Butler-Jones, the chief public health officer for the federal government, said there is a chance Canada will see more severe illness or deaths.

    Infectious disease expert Dr. Neil Rau said there is a good chance the flu infection has spread in Canada, predicting cases to occur in every province by the end of the week.

    While the cases in Canada and the United States are mainly mild ones, Rau warned some cases will become severe and perhaps lead to death.

    But he said it is beginning to appear that the virus is not as dangerous as it first appeared. As the situation evolves, people will find the virus not so scary, he said.

    Dr. Donald Low, medical director of the Ontario's public health laboratories and chief microbiologist at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, said Monday he believes the 1,600 reported swine flu cases in Mexico is "just the tip of the iceberg."

    He said he suspects the outbreak has been going on for several months in Mexico and has already spread to hundreds of thousands of people in the country.

    With 55 million doses of anti-viral drugs stockpiled and another 12 million doses accessible, officials say Canada is well-prepared to handle the crisis.

    Meanwhile, the country is on high alert trying to prevent further entry of the virus from outside. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has ordered the Public Health Agency of Canada to alert border authorities, quarantine officers and other officials to be on the lookout for anyone with flu-like symptoms.

    David Butler-Jones, the chief public health officer for the federal government urged Canadians to practice "good flu prevention techniques," through frequent hand-washing, coughing into one's sleeve or arm, and staying home when sick, to avoid infecting others.

    The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is asking producers, veterinarians and labs to increase their vigilance in monitoring for and reporting swine disease. Suspected cases of illness in pigs should be reported to veterinarians, provincial authorities or the CFIA.

    A spokesman for The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) said that for now, it is not screening passengers returning from vacations or business in Mexico at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

    But GTAA spokeswoman Trish Krale says emergency workers were taking extra precautions by wearing masks and gloves when responding to any ill passenger who had been in Mexico in the past couple of weeks.

    Foreign Affairs has so far not issued a travel advisory warning Canadians not to travel to Mexico. Nevertheless, many Canadians have changed their travel plans since the outbreak surfaced.

    Canadian and Mexican officials will meet Monday to assess whether it is safe for 15,000 Mexican agricultural workers to travel to Canada as seasonal farm workers. They are due to arrive in the coming weeks but Canada may suspend the Mexican seasonal farm worker program because of the flu outbreak. 

Editor: Mu Xuequan
Related Stories
Home Health
  Back to Top