H1N1 in Canada: Infection Spreads, Death Tally Rises, Alert Controls from SARS days Revived

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | January 8, 2014 5:17 PM EST

The deadly H1N1 strain of Influenza A has continued to spread to other parts in Canada, with the number of deaths likewise growing each day. The fatal strain has reached the province of Quebec. The threatening situation has prompted one Canadian regional hospital to revive its alert controls which it last used and implemented from the days of the SARS pandemic.

As of Tuesday, the death tally has reached:

  1. Okanagan - 1 
  2. Alberta - 10 
  3. Saskatchewan - 6

According to Canada's Public Health Agency, influenza activity in the country had continued to increase sharply in weeks 51 and 52. There were noted increases in laboratory detections of influenza, ILI consultations, hospitalizations with influenza and prescriptions for influenza antivirals.

*Read: H1N1 Flu Virus Has Come Back, Should the World Worry?

"Influenza A has been identified in more than 90 per cent of cases this season, and A(H1N1)pdm09 remains the predominant subtype, representing approximately 90 per cent of subtyped influenza viruses," the agency said.

Denise Werker, Saskatchewan's deputy chief medical health officer, said more deaths could still possibly occur in the coming weeks.

"There is more to come. We are still on the steep part of the curve," Ms Werker was quoted by Globe and Mail. She noted this year's flu season has yet to peak.

Flu season usually peaks between late January and mid-February.

"The laboratory confirmations are the tip of the iceberg that we see. So we know from last week, we had 161 lab confirmations and this week, in the space of seven days, we now have 336, so that's almost a 50 per cent increase."

*Read: Travel Alert: Canada Beset With Growing "Deadly" H1N1 Flu Cases

In Quebec, the number of infected is more than half of the reported 969 cases afflicted with H1N1; however, despite this, Horacio Arruda, Director of Public Health, said the province is still outside a pandemic situation.

This year's flu season is just like any other season, Mr Arruda told CBC News.

The Windsor Regional Hospital meantime is not taking any chances. Its Windsor-Essex health unit has already 122 cases of confirmed influenza, and claimed that this number was not normal.

"To have these types of numbers this early in an influenza year is not common and is very troubling," David Musyj, Hospital CEO, said.

The hospital has enforced the following restrictions to prevent a potential influenza outbreak:

  1. All visitors must wear masks in the oncology centre.
  2. Acceptance of visitors is limited in the birthing centres, respiratory care unit and pediatric areas.
  3. Children aged 12 and younger are not allowed to visit the hospital.

The hospital has encouraged its staff members to get a flu shot. If they haven't, they should wear masks at all times when interacting with patients.

More than 95 per cent of the patients admitted sick with the flu in Windsor Regional Hospital have the H1N1 strain.

Mr Musyj said the last time he had seen so many people affected by the same illness was during the SARS outbreak in 2003.

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