Canada sees spike in H1N1 flu-related deaths

Tue Nov 17, 2009 1:15pm EST
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The H1N1 flu killed more people in Canada during the past week than in any other week this year, but health officials said on Tuesday the nation's vaccination program was going so well that it may reach its peak earlier than expected.

Thirty-seven people died of the pandemic flu November 12-17, bringing Canada's death toll from H1N1 to 198, out of a population of 34 million. Comparable figures from other weeks were not available.

"Rather than seeing thousands of deaths we've been fortunate to have people doing what they need to do (to avoid the flu)," Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's chief public health officer, told reporters in Ottawa. "I think we're in a relatively good position, but a pandemic is always full of surprises."

Health officials had expected the flu to peak sometime in December, but Butler-Jones said the vaccination program's progress may move the peak earlier.

About 20 percent of Canadians have now been immunized, Butler-Jones said, the same estimate that health officials gave late last week.

That makes Canada a global leader in terms of the percentage of the population that has received the vaccine, said Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

By the end of this week, the federal government will have delivered 10 million doses of the vaccine to the country's 13 provinces and territories, she said.

The vaccine, produced by GlaxoSmithKline, is currently available only for high-risk groups, such as children, pregnant women and those with a chronic medical condition.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Chief Public Health Officer David Butler-Jones speaks during a news conference about swine flu outbreak in Ottawa April 27, 2009. REUTERS/Blair Gable</p>