<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD height=10>Last updated at 12:48 AM on 03/11/09 </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
Swine flu targets Island children
WAYNE THIBODEAU
The Guardian


The swine flu continues to target mainly children as it makes its way across P.E.I. while the potentially deadly virus almost ignores other age groups including the elderly.

To date, six people have been hospitalized on the Island with what is believed to be H1N1. Five of those have been hospitalized within the past week with lab-confirmed H1N1.

Four were between 21 months and 12 years old. The other was 22 years old.

None of them were sick enough to require specialized equipment to help them breathe and all have since been discharged from hospital.

The situation is much the same at flu assessment clinics and hospital emergency rooms.

Nearly 300 people were seen at flu assessment clinics over the weekend.

Flu-like symptoms sent another 72 people to the emergency room at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. Another 57 residents were treated for what is believed to be the swine flu at Prince County Hospital in Summerside.

There were 12 patients treated at Western Hospital in Alberton and another 28 treated at Kings County Memorial Hospital in Montague.

The province no longer tests for H1N1 unless a person is admitted to hospital.

Chief Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison says the virus is acting much like expected, targeting mainly young people. She said there has not been a single case of seniors ? usually a target for the seasonal flu ? getting H1N1.

?The under-20 group and certainly the under-30 group have seen the highest number of lab confirmed cases, particularly the age 10 to 19 have had a lot of lab-confirmed cases of H1N1 to date,? Morrison said.

Dr. Lamont Sweet, the deputy chief health officer and a doctor who has closely studied pandemics, said it appears those over the age of 50, and definitely those over the age of 65, have some sort of immunity to this latest bug.

?Following the usual pattern of what we?re seeing now, long-term care facilities are the safest place to be. It really is,? he said.
Geographically, the swine flu is most prevalent in central Prince Edward Island.

There are also high levels of flu activity being reported in western P.E.I.

Reports indicate that flu activity in eastern P.E.I. is not as high, but that is expected to change as the quickly spreading flu makes its way across the Island.

The province continues its vaccination program, focusing on high-risk groups. It will be Thursday before the province can roll out vaccination programs for elementary schools, focusing first on children in Grades 1-3.
Nationally, the death toll continues to climb.

Public Health officials in Ottawa can confirm 95 deaths, but that does not include deaths from Monday. P.E.I. is also bracing itself for deaths as more people get sick. About 30-35 per cent of Islanders are expected to get sick with the swine flu.

?Certainly, if you have that many people who are ill, and that many people who could potentially get complications, we are not unlike any other province or territory that may have deaths associated with this and that is going to be really, really hard,? Morrison warned.

The province is only receiving a portion of the vaccine it expected because of a national shortage. That means only about 2,500 doses will arrive Wednesday. Morrison said that?s put the province three days behind schedule.

Still, she is hopeful all Islanders can be vaccinated by early December. About 17 per cent of Islanders are now vaccinated.

?Our initial goal was that everyone would get their first vaccine somewhere by the middle of November,? said Morrison, adding the province expected the process to take four weeks.

?We?ve already experienced two weeks of shortages so assuming we can get up to speed within the next week, it will delay it by at least two weeks.?