Dozens of people in a remote First Nations community near Tofino have reportedly fallen ill with H1N1, in what one health organization has called Canada’s first pandemic outbreak of the virus this flu season.
While the Canadian Medical Association Journal has identified the community of Ahousat as centre of the outbreak, a Vancouver Island Health Authority official said the report is untrue and “irresponsible.”
Dr. Charmaine Enns said there have been a number of mild cases of the virus in small communities in the area, but nobody has been hospitalized.
Ida Chong, minister of healthy living and sport, said Ahousat’s outbreak is not new because a number of cases have been reported over several weeks.
Dr. Perry Kendal, provincial health officer, added he wouldn’t characterize the cases of H1N1, also known as swine flu, in Ahousat as a pandemic outbreak because it was expected that the virus would return this fall.
“This was anticipated, was planned for and was responded to very well,” he said.
Shawn Atleo, chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said there was an “excellent” plan in place for the prevention and isolation of the virus in his home community of Ahousat.
But he added First Nations people are especially susceptible to the virus, and that a lack of infrastructure and clean water show broader health issues need to be addressed.
A woman from an aboriginal community just outside Victoria died from the virus on Wednesday, but authorities say she had pre-existing medical conditions.
– With files from The Canadian Press