Thursday, July 16, 2009

Kids in Ontario Summer Camps Screened for H1N1 Flu, 3 Cases Reported

This is a very disturbing report from CTV News on the emergence of H!N1 flu at three Ontario summer camps:
Officials at summer camps in areas across Canada are screening new campers for signs of swine flu, after three Ontario camps reported that kids there had become sick with the worrisome flu.

All the cases in Ontario cottage country so far have been mild and there has been no need to hospitalize any of them or close any camps, says Dr. Colin Lee of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

"A lot of them have gone home to rest up. It's more comfortable for them to be at home," Lee told Canada AM Thursday. "For those who are staying who are ill, they're being isolated from the other campers until they are feeling better."

The Olympia sports camp, just outside of Huntsville, has a number of cases and is now screening all children at bus pickups. Kids who are ill are being sent home.

Camp Ramah, near Bracebridge, says several campers came down with mild cases of the virus but recovered in a matter of days. The third camp has not been publicly identified.

The World Health Organization has categorized the current pandemic as a Phase 6 outbreak, characterized by "widespread human infection":

Phase 6, the pandemic phase, is characterized by community level outbreaks in at least one other country in a different WHO region in addition to the criteria defined in Phase 5. Designation of this phase will indicate that a global pandemic is under way.

During the post-peak period, pandemic disease levels in most countries with adequate surveillance will have dropped below peak observed levels. The post-peak period signifies that pandemic activity appears to be decreasing; however, it is uncertain if additional waves will occur and countries will need to be prepared for a second wave.

Previous pandemics have been characterized by waves of activity spread over months. Once the level of disease activity drops, a critical communications task will be to balance this information with the possibility of another wave. Pandemic waves can be separated by months and an immediate “at-ease” signal may be premature.

As at July 6, Canada had 7983 reported cases of the H1N1 influenza, with 25 deaths attributed to the outbreak. according to the WHO.

The WHO currently assesses the severity of the outbreak as moderate:

At this time, WHO considers the overall severity of the influenza pandemic to be moderate. This assessment is based on scientific evidence available to WHO, as well as input from its Member States on the pandemic's impact on their health systems, and their social and economic functioning.

The moderate assessment reflects that:

  • Most people recover from infection without the need for hospitalization or medical care.
  • Overall, national levels of severe illness from influenza A(H1N1) appear similar to levels seen during local seasonal influenza periods, although high levels of disease have occurred in some local areas and institutions.
  • Overall, hospitals and health care systems in most countries have been able to cope with the numbers of people seeking care, although some facilities and systems have been stressed in some localities.

WHO is concerned about current patterns of serious cases and deaths that are occurring primarily among young persons, including the previously healthy and those with pre-existing medical conditions or pregnancy.

Large outbreaks of disease have not yet been reported in many countries, and the full clinical spectrum of disease is not yet known.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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