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April 29, 2009

Worldwide Influenza Pandemic Warned

HEALTH - The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the pandemic alert level for the swine flu to five out of six.

Dr. Margaret Chan, the director-general of the WHO, says the world must be prepared. "All countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plan," she says, and countries should remain on high alert for signs of the deadly influenza virus.

PANDEMIC THREAT LEVELS

Phase 1: No animal to human transfer of viruses.

Phase 2: An animal influenza virus causes infection in humans.

Phase 3: An animal or human-animal hybrid influenza virus has caused sporadic cases or small clusters of disease in people, but has not resulted in human-to-human transmission sufficient to sustain community-level outbreaks. Limited human-to-human transmission may occur.

Phase 4: Verified human-to-human transmission of an influenza virus able to cause “community-level outbreaks.”

Phase 5: Wide-spread human-to-human transmission of the virus in at least two countries in one WHO region (usually a continent).

Phase 6: The pandemic spreads to at least one other country in a different continent or WHO region.

Global Pandemic: Widespread influenza outbreaks, even spreading to remote regions.

Post-Peak Period: Pandemic disease levels begin to decrease is multiple countries. There may be premature signs of it, as influenza tends to move in waves.

Post-Pandemic Period: Influenza disease activity will have returned to levels normally seen for seasonal influenza.


So far this virus (commonly known as swine flu, a misnomer since its actually a hybrid of bird, swine and human flu viruses) has effected Mexico, the United States and Canada, with most of the deaths in Mexico and 1 death in Texas.

There is also confirmed cases of swine flu (but no deaths so far) in Spain, England, Germany, Israel and New Zealand. This suggests we could see the threat level raised to 6 very soon when it starts human-to-human transfer overseas.

CANADIAN INFLUENZA PANDEMIC

In Canada the raised pandemic alert level does not alter Canadian plans, said Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer. “We have a Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan, we’ve been following it, and we will continue to adapt our surveillance, our infection prevention measures and communicating as our own situation dictates,” he says.

Critics however are saying it may be time to close Canada's borders and cut off plane flights in and out of Canada for all non-essential travel.

But is it too late for that? Six more cases of swine flu in Canada were confirmed today - three more in British Columbia and three more in Ontario - bringing the total of Canadian cases to 19. We're also expecting our first deaths in the coming days.

There are now 7 confirmed cases in Ontario, all cases have mild flu like symptoms and most people are between the ages of 20 and 40. Four are in Durham region, two are in York region and 1 in Peel region, but its considered just a matter of time before cases become widespread. In British Columbia all of the new cases are in the Vancouver region.

Its believed one of the cases in Vancouver, who has been hospitalized, may be the first Canadian to die.

NOTE: It would take approx. 6 months to make enough vaccines for all of Canada. In the meantime we will have to use TamiFlu shots, which helps, but is not fully effective.

AMERICAN INFLUENZA PANDEMIC

Ten states are now reporting confirmed cases of the virus, up from five states yesterday. The first American death from swine flu was this morning — a 23-month-old toddler in Texas. American officials say more deaths are expected in the near future.

American investigators believe the virus seems to cause vomiting and "diarrhea more often than normal" influenza. Symptoms so far include fever, lack of appetite, coughing and respiratory problems. Cause of death is pneumonia (respiratory failure).

Health officials across the United States are taking aggressive steps to try to minimize the impact on people's health. Some are even arguing in favour of mandatory isolation of influenza patients.

So far the United States has 91 confirmed cases, with 14 cases in California, 51 in New York, 16 in Texas, two each in Kansas, Massachusetts and Michigan, and single cases in Arizona, Indiana, Nevada, and Ohio. There is 343 suspected cases.

The United States is seeing a broader age range of cases, with the youngest confirmed case aged 2 and the oldest aged 81. Sixty-four per cent of confirmed cases are under the age of 18. So far there has been 5 hospitalizations as more deaths are expected.

MEXICAN & OVERSEAS INFLUENZA PANDEMIC

So far there has been 2500+ suspected cases in Mexico and 152 deaths. Worldwide there is 3,500 suspected cases and 153 deaths so far. Health officials have been slow at tracking confirmed cases, only 188 worldwide. Evidently more tracking needs to be done so people will know the seriousness of their illness and not pass it off as just a regular cold.

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