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The World Health Organization has finally decided to raise its pandemic warning to the highest level, phase 6, indicating that the H1N1 flu has become the first full-blown pandemic since 1968.
In a statement issued Thursday, WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan said, "We are in the earliest days of the pandemic. The virus is spreading under a close and careful watch." The 2009 pandemic is unusual in that it is the first to be subjected to such careful scrutiny from its very beginnings, she said. "No previous pandemic has been detected so early or watched so closely, in real-time, right at the very beginning. The world can now reap the benefits of investments, over the last five years, in pandemic preparedness."
Dr Chan warned, however, that our "head start" doesn't mean we will be able to prevent many of the dangers of pandemics. "Although the pandemic appears to have moderate severity in comparatively well-off countries, it is prudent to anticipate a bleaker picture as the virus spreads to areas with limited resources, poor health care, and a high prevalence of underlying medical problems."
In response, public health officials immediately jumped into action. Quebec public health officials held a news conference Thursday afternoon and updated the government's public warnings.
Ontario public health officials also held a news conference, essentially to announce that they are already doing everything they can. "We have a plan in place to monitor and assess the H1N1 flu virus," said acting chief public health officer Dr David Williams. "We will continue to implement that plan with our partners and agencies and to coordinate our response activities with the Public Health Agency of Canada."
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada -- which now counts nearly 3,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of H1N1 flu across Canada, in every province but Newfoundland and Labrador -- Ontario's reaction is appropriate. The Canadian repsonse does not need to be changed in light of the WHO's new decision to declared H1N1 flu a pandemic, reported PHAC officials. "Since the beginning, Canada has taken decisive action to address the H1N1 Flu Virus and protect Canadians," Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said. "Today’s decision by the WHO does not change our approach. Entering Phase Six means we will build on the surveillance and management measures that are already in place under the Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan."
In Montreal, infectious disease specialist Dr Brian Ward, of the McGill University Health Centre, has been diagnosed with the H1N1 flu.
Posted by David Elkins and others at 3:00 AM
Labels: H1N1 flu