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Nova Scotia doctors urged to watch for new bird flu strain

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  • Nova Scotia doctors urged to watch for new bird flu strain

    N.S. doctors urged to watch for new bird flu strain
    CBC News
    Posted: Apr 19, 2013 10:22 PM AT
    Last Updated: Apr 19, 2013 10:29 PM AT
    Dr. Robert Strang, the province?s chief public health officer, issued a memo on April 12, advising Nova Scotia physicians to look for anyone with flu-like symptoms who has recently travelled to China or anyone with severe respiratory symptoms.
    Dr. Todd Hatchette, the service chief of microbiology at Halifax?s Victoria General Hospital, said there is a limited chance the virus will show up here in Nova Scotia.

    However, he said that medical officials are busy ensuring protocols are in place, just in case a strange flu appears.

    Hatchette has experience with new strains of influenza. His laboratory was the first in the country to confirm H1N1 during the last pandemic in 2009.

    "I remember the day vividly. It was a Saturday afternoon when we identified an unusual strain. We had to transport the virus by police escort to the national lab in Winnipeg," said Hatchette.

    He said the H1N1 strain was identified within 24 hours and he said he is confident that if a new strain of flu appears in Nova Scotia, the right protocols are in place for a swift identification of the virus.
    "We know that this it is an avian virus," said Hatchette. But he said this avian virus is unusual in that it doesn't make birds sick, only humans.

    Not being able to visually identify sick birds means that the virus can silently spread for a longer period of time amongst the human population.

    "At this point it doesn't look as though there has been any human-to-human infection," said Hatchette.
    Hatchette said he wonders if we are seeing the tip of the iceberg in China or are there a lot of other less severe or even asymptomatic cases that don't show any signs at all.
    The provincial health department is urging doctors in Nova Scotia to be on the lookout for a new form of bird flu.
    "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
    -Nelson Mandela