Novel H1N1 Flu Situation Evolves In Ottawa

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Today, Ottawa Public Health confirmed additional cases of the novel H1N1 influenza A virus, bringing the total of confirmed cases in the city to 13. The laboratory-confirmed Ottawa cases to date involved nine males and four females with an age range of less than one year to 54 years, with a median age of 20. The novel virus has been identified in both travellers to affected areas as well as people in our local community. Some of the persons affected have experienced severe symptoms and required hospitalization. All patients are now recovering.

“Ottawa Public Health continues to respond to this constantly evolving situation,“ said Dr. Isra Levy, Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health. “We expected community spread and the possibility of more severe disease in some individuals. We continue to maintain heightened surveillance measures and extensive communication with our community partners, while also expanding our focus to preventing community outbreaks.”

Residents can reduce the spread of the virus in the community. All are encouraged to:

* Wash their hands well and frequently
* Cough and sneeze into their sleeve instead of their hands
* Stay home when they are sick

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If individuals experience flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, severe fatigue, lack of appetite, coughing and sore throat), they are advised to:

• Stay home from work, school or public gatherings until they no longer have a fever and are feeling better. Presence of a cough in the absence of other symptoms is not sufficient to keep an employee away from the work setting, as it is not unusual for individuals to experience a cough for days to weeks after infection.

• See their health care provider if they are experiencing severe symptoms.

• Limit contact with household members and wash hands frequently.

• Use self-care measures such as increasing their fluid intake, getting adequate rest and treating themselves for their symptoms. Avoidance of tobacco smoke and the use of cool compresses may also be helpful.

Recent information indicates that the current H1N1 flu virus has characteristics similar to seasonal influenza. It nevertheless remains a novel virus with the potential to spread rapidly. “It is important that residents, businesses and community organizations maintain a heightened awareness and promote infection control measures to help prevent the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Levy. “We cannot risk becoming complacent.”

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