May 1, 2009
Media Release

York Region continues H1N1 flu virus (human swine flu) efforts

Use common sense infection control practices and seek medical attention if you are ill
NEWMARKET – The Regional Municipality of York continues to work with provincial, federal and international authorities, in addition to health units across the GTA and the local health care community, to monitor, investigate and respond to the H1N1 flu virus (human swine flu) situation. 
“With approximately 60,000 Canadians travelling to Mexico each month, we are not surprised we have local cases in York Region,” said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health.  “What is important for residents to know is that the two individuals from York Region were not hospitalized, and this illness is not widespread in our community.”
York Region and other jurisdictions have been planning and preparing for the potential of an influenza pandemic for several years.  York Region has a well-developed plan that the public health branch of the Community and Health Services Department is using as a guide to assist the work in responding to the current situation. 
 
The York Region Pandemic Influenza:  Prepared for Action Plan is available online at www.york.ca
 
The pandemic plan outlines actions carried out by public health in order to prepare for, respond to and recover from an influenza pandemic in York Region, should one occur.  The plan also provides information on partnerships with local area municipalities, health care facilities and key agencies for response coordination. 
 
As a response to Ontario’s preliminary activation of its emergency operations centre, York Region has initiated partial activation of the Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC).
 
“If an influenza pandemic should occur, we are prepared and our plan is in place,” added Dr. Kurji.  “Partial activation of the HEOC demonstrates that York Region public health is committed to ensuring consistent and coordinated responses to our stakeholders and community partners.”
 
Partial activation follows the protocols identified in the plan.  When the World Health Organization (WHO) pandemic alert reaches phase 4 or 5, the York Region Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) can be partially activated. 
The WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.  Among its many other responsibilities, it provides leadership on global health matters.  The WHO provides a         six-phase global pandemic alert system.  Currently, the WHO alert is at phase 5.
According to the WHO, phase 5 is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region.  While most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of phase 5 is a strong signal that the organization, communication and implementation of the planned mitigation measures must be finalized.
York Region’s response strategies may be impacted by the on-going evolution of the situation as it unfolds around the world, in addition to directives from the Provincial Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
H1N1 flu virus (human swine flu) is a respiratory illness that causes symptoms similar to those of the regular human seasonal flu.  The symptoms include fever, fatigue, lack of appetite, coughing and sore throat.  Some people with H1N1 flu virus (human swine flu) have also reported vomiting and diarrhea.
Influenza and other (severe) respiratory infections are transmitted from person-to-person via the respiratory route.  Coughs and sneezes release the germs into the air where they can be breathed in by others.  Germs can also rest on hard surfaces such as counters and doorknobs.
 
Residents are advised to take the usual measures to reduce the risk of transmission of respiratory illness. These measures include:
• Washing your hands well and often with soap and warm water;  if soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer 
• Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze; sneezing or coughing into your sleeve or arm
• Contacting your family doctor and staying at home if you are ill
• Practicing social distancing (minimizing contact with family members, not going out in public) while symptomatic
• Not going to work until 24 hours after symptoms are resolved or up to seven days from when you became ill (onset of symptoms), whichever is longer
Residents are also reminded that if they have recently travelled to an area affected by H1N1 flu virus (human swine flu) and are experiencing respiratory illness, or in contact with a confirmed case within seven days of onset of symptoms, contact your health care provider or call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.  Make sure you mention your recent travel history when you are making the appointment.  People should only go to Emergency Rooms if they have severe symptoms.
 
For more information on this or any other public health-related program, please contact York Region
Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653. 
 
Outside of regular business hours, general information about H1N1 flu virus (human swine flu) is available by calling the ServiceOntario INFOline at 1-800-476-9708 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.
 
Updated information is also available on The Regional Municipality of York website at www.york.ca
 
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Media Contact: Jennifer Mitchell-Emmerson, Community and Health Services, York Region
Phone: 905 830-4444 Ext. 4016 / After-hours Cell: 905 251-5553
Email: jennifer.mitchellemmerson@york.ca
 
Attachment:  Facts about H1N1 flu virus (human swine flu)

Contact Information
 
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