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The Southern Chiefs' Organization (SCO) is currently working to develop a Pandemic Influenza Preparedness plan.

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  • The Southern Chiefs' Organization (SCO) is currently working to develop a Pandemic Influenza Preparedness plan.

    Health : Pandemic Influenza - Information for First Nations
    Posted by admin on 2008/5/10 11:17:03 (108 reads)

    The Southern Chiefs' Organization (SCO) is currently working to develop a Pandemic Influenza Preparedness plan. The nature of this plan is to ensure our member First Nation Communities are prepared in the event of a pandemic outbreak.

    The purpose of the information below is to provide all of our constituents with information regarding Pandemic Influenza:

    What is a pandemic?
    A pandemic is an outbreak of a viral infection or disease, which spreads easily from one person to another. The virus or disease can spread rapidly and affect the entire human population.

    How often do pandemics occur?
    In the last three hundred years, the world has seen 10 pandemics. A pandemic occurs every 10 to 40 years. Although it is impossible to predict the exact timeline of a pandemic occurrence, experts are predicting that the world could be on the brink of a pandemic outbreak.

    When did the last pandemic occur?
    The last pandemic called "Hong Kong Influenza," occurred in 1968 and resulted in the deaths of one million people. Prior to this, the "Avian Influenza" happened in 1957 and claimed the lives of 2 million people. However, the deadliest pandemic was in 1918. During this period, the 'Spanish Influenza", it is estimated that between forty to fifty million people died as a result of this disease.

    How does a Pandemic occur?
    The World Health Organization has identified that a pandemic occurs in six phases. Currently, the world is in the third phase of this pandemic, which means there is no or very limited human to human contact in spreading this virus. This does not mean we should take this lightly. We need to act now before a pandemic reaches huge proportions.

    What is Avian Influenza?
    Although Avian Influenza is known amongst scientists as the H5N1 virus, it is more commonly referred to as "Bird Flu" as many bird populations have been affected by this disease. However, the world has seen an increase of this virus in humans. In 1997, six people died and eighteen became seriously ill as a result of this virus.

    Since 2003, 263 humans have been diagnosed with this virus. In 2007, this number increased by 21 percent (69 people), bringing the total to 332. However, since 2003, 158 humans died as a result of this virus. Another 46 people died in 2007, which brought the total number of deaths to 204. Although seemingly low this number has increased.

    Are only certain age groups affected by the Avian Influenza?
    Currently, it is impossible to predict who will be affected by the virus. However, in the event of an outbreak, it is likely that very few people will be immune to this. As of April 17, 2008, a two year old child in Egypt is the latest human to be diagnosed with this strain. On April 15, 2008, a thirty-year-old woman from Egypt died after contracting the disease only thirteen days earlier.

    How is this flu spread?
    Avian Influenza is spread by wild and domestic birds. Currently, humans cannot spread the virus to each other, but can come into contact with the virus when handling sick or dead birds, or by coming into contact with contaminated feces (bird droppings).

    Can I become infected if I have eaten poultry products contaminated with the "Bird Flu" virus?
    Currently, there is no research or evidence to show that contaminated food products (such as poultry) have caused an infection within humans. However, caution of proper handling, preparation and cooking of such products should be taken. Food should be cooked fully, as a normal cooking temperature (70 Celcius) kills the virus. It is strongly advised that egg yolks also be cooked fully.

    Why shoud First Nations Communities be concerned?
    According to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (1999) and Health Canada (2003), the living conditions and quality of life amongst First Nation Communities is currently ranked 63rd, or amongst Third World conditions - the root cause of poor health.

    In addition, overcrowded housing, mold, and unsafe drinking water helps spread communicable diseases at a rate of 10 to 12 times higher than the national average.

    Further, over 40 per cent of homes on First Nation communities are considered as inadequate shelter.

    Finally, the World Health Organization states that "Malnutrition, poor access to health services, poor infection control and hygiene practices will lead to higher disease and death rates."

    Is Avian Influenza in Canada?
    No. There have not been any identified human cases in Canada or the United States. Although the virus has been identified in areas of Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, there is no pandemic influenza anywhere in the world.

    What can I do to help prevent the spread of the "Bird Flu" virus?
    To help prevent the spread of the Bird Flu virus, you can follow these few simple steps.

    1. Ask your health care provider about receiving an annual flu shot
    2. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 15 - 30 seconds
    3. Use a clean tissue or your sleeve when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands afterwards
    4. Throw away each tissue after use as reusing them spreads the germs further
    5. Keep surfaces at home clean and sanitized regularly by using disinfectants
    6. If you do not feel well, stay home from school or work
    7. Contact your health care professional, health centre or local nursing station for further advice

    Do you have more information available?

    Yes. Additional information may be found at the following websites:

    Government of Canada

    Public Health Agency of Canada

    Southern Chiefs' Organization, Inc

    World Health Organization - Pandemic Influenza

    If you have further questions or are seeking more information regarding Pandemic Influenza, the following procedures may be followed.

    1. Contact your local federal, provincial or local government and ask for information.
    2. Seek information from your health care professional.
    3. If you are a member of the Southern Manitoba First Nations, speak to your Health Centre. The Southern Chiefs' Organization, Inc is is working closely with the Health Centres and is committed in ensuring a Pandemic Preparedness Plan is available for all of our First Nation communities.

    Meegwetch, Ekosi, Thank You