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It's official: H1N1 flu is a pandemic

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.

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  1. sharon12 June, 2009 10:25 AM

    This map is now on it's 48th printing. It has grown "exponentially" from the beginning every 5-7 days.

    At one point there was rapid growth in Japan and Spain which did not get the "press" that Australia is getting now.
    Does that mean we are nearing the "tipping" point?
    ( should I repeat the frog question?)

    The thing that interests me the most about this virus is it's capacity to 'grandfather" itself every 8 hours.
    i.e. In this day the virus that exists by this time tomorrow will be three generations removed from the one we have in this moment.

    Little has been said about the vigilance required to change some personal habits/ routines during this time.

    Why is that?

  2. Sam Solomon12 June, 2009 11:33 AM

    I know there has been some effort to emphasize the need to be careful with regard to hygiene at healthcare facilities here in Montreal in the interests of preventing nosocomial infections. But, like you say, there's been essentially no guidance, it seems, for the general public on how to prevent transmission. My number one piece of advice: don't cough on me in the subway!

  3. sharon12 June, 2009 12:20 PM


    The "prevention of transmission" is one feature only.

    Another is "protection of self" from others through changing routines and personal habits.

    This is worth a read as a credible source speaks to a near future concern about the virility of the virus.

    I am changing my shopping habits, recreational venues, arenas for social contacts, and paying close personal attention to hydration.

  4. Sam Solomon12 June, 2009 12:59 PM

    Finally, the benefits of my aversion to shopping and being in crowds emerge!

    Here's a topic for some ambitious PhD student's thesis: "Social anxiety disorder as a defensive adaptation against infectious disease transmission."

  5. sharon12 June, 2009 1:28 PM


    I think Selye's "stress adaptation theory" is more appropriate ...and workable.

    In that theory:

    1. "existing practice" is not's (key)operating strategy is modified to accommodate.

    3. "emergency measures" are acted upon according to (key) directional strategy

    Q- where did 2. go?

    A- that is the buffer zone .

    Balance continues to be sustained through "operational" expertise /personnel in 1. are used in 3.
    Simultaneously creative options are birthed from an environment of stability.

    Note: not just economic stability but societal

    Q- what could these options be?

    A- An increase in the move to removing depence on anything " institutionalised"

    From the public sector we already have the interesting advertisements promoting "self"-sufficiency

    From the private sector we see the emergence of "mobile" service delivery... for everything

    From the voluntary sector we see "congregates"..clustering in smaller numbers

    Now ...all they have to do is have 1. and 3. work these " buffer zone innovations" into their " operational" plans :)