OTTAWA – Canadian health officials are rushing to contain the spread of swine flu through human contact after at least a half-dozen cases were confirmed in Nova Scotia and British Columbia.
Cases in both provinces were linked to Mexican travel – but unlike the deadly outbreak in that country, the illnesses in Nova Scotia and B.C. patients were so mild that none required hospitalization.
“This indicates that – yes – swine influenza is present in Canada,” said Danuta Skowronski, of B.C.’s Centre for Disease Control.
“What we can say so far is that, in the United States and Canada, we’re not picking up those signals of severe respiratory illness that Mexico has been grappling with. . .
“This swine influenza virus does not automatically mean hospitalization and death. It may have just the typical influenza-type presentation and symptoms . . . This is not necessarily scary monsters.”
But she warned that Canadian experts expect more cases in this country and that the public-health system remains on high alert.
Skowronski said the two people on the B.C. Lower Mainland who have contracted the flu have been asked to “self-isolate” but have not been quarantined.
She advised anyone developing flu-like symptoms to stay home and not go to work. If their symptoms are serious enough to see a doctor, she said, they should advise their physician in advance that they intend to pay a visit.
Four students from King’s-Edgehill School, a private high school in Windsor, N.S., have been placed in isolation. Two of them recently travelled to Mexico. Health authorities in Nova Scotia say their symptoms are mild.
The illness has proven itself to be potentially deadly. Up to 86 people have died in Mexico as a result of swine flu. About 1,300 have been diagnosed with the sickness since April 13.
Health authorities in Nova Scotia said Sunday the students reported fatigue, muscle aches and coughing, but nothing out of the ordinary for people who suffer from the flu.
Nova Scotia’s chief public health officer, Dr. Robert Strang, said the four “very mild” cases of swine flu were detected in students ranging in age from 12 to 17 or 18. All are recovering, he said.
“It was acquired in Mexico, brought home and spread,” Strang said.
Health officials urged anyone who thinks they might be ill with flu-like symptoms to stay away from work or school, wash their hands and avoid coughing into their hands.
Although four students at the school have reported getting sick, only two of them went on a school trip to Mexico between April 1 and 8.
Health officials say between 20 and 23 students were on the trip.
“We have to keep things in perspective – it is a mild illness,” Strang said.
Although health officials say four students have tested positive for swine flu, 11 of 17 students they have contacted so far who were on the trip to Mexico did get ill.
Because swine flu is so new, most laboratories don’t have tests to identify them, and they show up as untypeable influenza A when tests are run.
Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon told CTV the federal cabinet has set up an operations committee and has been monitoring the swine flu situation closely.
Foreign Affairs has posted information on its website on the health situation in Mexico but is not telling Canadians to stay away from the country.