There was no word today from the Public Health Agency of Canada. On Friday, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. David Butler-Jones said there were no cases yet in this country.
With the mounting evidence of efficient person-to-person spread, infectious disease experts suggested Canada is likely to see its first cases soon.
“We now apparently have widespread swine H1N1 throughout the United States which tells us that it is highly infectious, therefore having all the makings of the next pandemic strain,” said Dr. Donald Low, chief microbiologist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital.
“It is just a matter of time before we recognize it here.”
The new strain of swine influenza is likely already in Ontario, said Dr. Michael Gardam, one of Ontario's top infectious disease specialists, because about 60,000 people return to the province from Mexico every month.
"We have to assume that it is circulating in Ontario," he said. "You just have to look at air travel patterns to realize that what goes on in Mexico has to come to Canada."
With the spectre of SARS still looming over the Toronto area, local infectious disease experts are emphasizing the new strain of swine flu should not be compared to the severe acute respiratory syndrome that swept the city in 2003 and killed 44 people.
The "Spanish" influenza pandemic of 1918–1919, which caused ≈50 million deaths worldwide, remains an ominous warning to public health. Many questions about its origins, its unusual epidemiologic features, and the basis of its pathogenicity remain unanswered. The public health implications of the pandemic therefore remain in doubt even as we now grapple with the feared emergence of a pandemic caused by H5N1 or other virus. However, new information about the 1918 virus is emerging, for example, sequencing of the entire genome from archival autopsy tissues. But, the viral genome alone is unlikely to provide answers to some critical questions. Understanding the 1918 pandemic and its implications for future pandemics requires careful experimentation and in-depth historical analysis.
An estimated one third of the world's population (or ≈500 million persons) were infected and had clinically apparent illnesses during the 1918–1919 influenza pandemic. The disease was exceptionally severe. Case-fatality rates were>2.5%, compared to <0.1%>). Total deaths were estimated at ≈50 million and were arguably as high as 100 million.