01 May 2009

Swine Flu (Novel Influenza)

The following letter was written for distribution by Canadian high commissioners and ambassadors.

Dear fellow Canadians

I am writing to provide an update on the human swine influenza and links to websites where you will be able to monitor the situation closely. Further communications will be provided as the situation warrants.

Human cases of swine influenza (H1N1) have been reported in various regions of the world. Deaths have been reported as well. Mexico is currently experiencing an extended influenza season, and cases normally involve healthy young adults. On 29 April 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the current level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to 5, which indicates that the virus has caused sustained community level outbreaks in two or more countries in one WHO region. The WHO maintains a complete list of countries (available at www.who.int) that includes the most recent outbreaks and crisis.

In Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is the lead Federal authority on human swine influenza and pandemic influenza in humans. PHAC has an influenza website portal (www.influenza.gc.ca) to provide information on various types of influenza.

The PHAC recommends that travellers follow the same precautionary measures as with seasonal influenza. These include receiving a seasonal flu vaccine, washing your hands often, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when ill. Canadians travellers who develop symptoms of influenza or severe respiratory illness, especially high fever, are advised to seek medical attention immediately. The PHAC also provides general information on human swine influenza on its main website at www.phac-aspc.gc.ca or at www.fightflu.ca .

Government of Canada offices overseas are not in a position to provide medicine or medical treatment to Canadian citizens. Canadians are encouraged to evaluate their own personal circumstances and medical histories to determine whether their continued presence in the country is warranted. While the WHO has not declared that a global pandemic is underway, Canadians should be aware that the interruption of commercial aviation and imposition of border control measures to and from any country may occur in the event of a pandemic. Under these conditions, departure may not be possible and the ability of the Government of Canada to assist would be severely restricted. Canadians should always ensure their passports are current. It is also possible that in accordance with measures announced by local authorities, the Embassy of Canada might have to reduce its services to emergencies only until further notice. Should the services levels be affected, we would immediately communicate with you again.

I hope that the information provided will be useful to you and your family. Further information on Human Swine Influenza can be found at http://www.voyage.gc.ca or at Global issues.