H1N1 might have peaked in Canada

Wed Dec 2, 2009 2:20pm EST
 
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian health officials said on Wednesday that the H1N1 flu outbreak might have reached its peak in Canada, but cautioned that the fight is not yet over.

David Butler-Jones, Canada's chief public health officer, said that while some areas of the country have displayed reduced incidents of swine flu, other regions have seen an uptick in cases in recent weeks.

"We are trying to be very careful when using the term 'the peak'. We won't know we have reached a peak in flu activity until we are clearly on the other side of it," he said during a conference call.

"Passing a peak in activity doesn't mean we decrease our concern. Coming down the mountain is as treacherous as climbing it," he added.

Both Butler-Jones and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, reiterated the need for all Canadians to be immunized, noting that only about one-third of Canadian are immune to the disease because they have been vaccinated or have already been infected by the H1N1 pandemic virus.

"If the vast majority of Canadians get immunized we will not see much of this disease moving forward," said Butler-Jones.

The World Health Organization said last month that the H1N1 flu was moving eastward across Europe and Asia after appearing to peak in parts of Western Europe and the United States.

At least 6,770 deaths have been recorded worldwide since the swine flu virus emerged in April -- but officials always stress the confirmed numbers represent only a fraction of the actual cases, as most patients never get tested.

Influenza can hit several peaks in a single season. Experts said cases could be expected for weeks or months more, noting noted that during the 1957 flu pandemic, a busy autumn was followed by a lull and then infections surged again in January.