H1N1 concerns in Atlantic Canada

Update as at December 12, 2009
FluWatch Findings

  • On week 49, the overall influenza activity continued to decline for the fourth consecutive week in Canada.
  • The ILI consultation rate was below the expected range for this time of the year and only 6.6% of the specimens tested were positive for influenza. The Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 strain still accounted for nearly 100% of the positive influenza A subtyped specimens this week.
  • The number of hospitalized cases (159 vs. 307), ICU admissions (40 vs. 83) and deaths (21 vs. 33) reported this week are about half of those reported last week. Among reporting provinces and territories (PTs) this week, hospitalized cases occurred in only six provinces (BC, AB, SK, ON, QC & NS). Deaths reported this week were also from the same five provinces except MB (BC, AB, SK, MB, ON & QC).
  • From August 30 to December 12, 2009, a total of 6,779 hospitalized cases including 1,081 (15.9%) cases admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) as well as 313 (4.6%) deaths had been reported.

Prior news regarding the Atlantic Canada region
Dr. Heather Morrison, Prince Edward Island's chief public health officer stated, "there's no risk to getting the vaccine, even if you've had H1N1. So only those who have had lab-confirmed H1N1, would not need the vaccine."

There is enough vaccine in PEI to innoculate all of the 5,000 children in Grades One to Three. All provinces are offering the vaccine to the chronically ill.

All the provinces have been allocated the same amount of vaccine on a per capita basis
New Brunswick is giving the H1N1 flu shots to every school child under 18, and this is being given in the first round of shots.

Prince Edward Island is also giving it to parents. Newfoundland will vaccinate anyone under 25 with a chronic health problem.

Nova Scotia is giving it only to children under five, pregnant women, natives and health care workers at public clinics for now. Nova Scotia has received 160,000 doses of adjuvanted H1N1 vaccine, which contains an immune-system booster. The province expected to get 12,500 additional doses of boosted vaccine soon and 5,400 doses of adjuvant-free vaccine, which has been recommended for pregnant women.

Though there are more children between the ages of 10 and 20 coming down with the flu, when a younger child does get the flu, they can be more severely ill and can require hospitalization and ventilators in much higher numbers.

Morrison went on to say, "It is the under-10 group that we are seeing that are having more critical care needs in the country. This group is still the most 'at risk'."

Who should not be vaccinated?
The only children who should not be vaccinated are those who are very sick or running a temperature. PEI Public Health has said any children who are absent during the vaccination program will be able to get the vaccination as soon as they return to school.

High absentee rates
The schools report high absentee rates, with some reaching more than 30%. It is likely that fear of the H1N1 virus is causing some parents to keep the kids home from school even when they are healthy.

How to control the risk
We all know about coughing into the arm and washing hands. If you feel sick, stay home, as you should not take the chance of spreading illness. If you do have Swine Flu, then you will be advised as to the length of time to stay away from work, and restrictions for family members. It is strongly recommended by our government that we all get the vaccinations, but that you wait your turn. Make sure the "high risk" are taken care of first.