Friday, April 24, 2009

Mexican Illness Raises Vigilance

SEVERE RESPIRATORY ILLNESS
UNDER SURVEILLANCE

VICTORIA – British Columbia health officials have stepped up monitoring of severe respiratory illness in the province following information from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) regarding a number of severe respiratory illnesses (SRI) in various locations in south and central Mexico. PHAC has informed the BC Centre for Disease Control, which in turn, has notified its network of clinicians and public health partners across the province.

There are no suspected cases of SRI related to the Mexican outbreak in B.C. at this time.

B.C. has an extremely vigilant and responsive public health system in place. The BC Centre for Disease Control oversees an extensive surveillance network with close links with regional public health and front line health-care workers.

The province is closely monitoring the situation and will provide updates as they become available. The province has asked that all clinical and public health partners around the province be extra vigilant, increase screening and report any unusual illness, especially in travelers returning from Mexico.

It is not uncommon for there to be a greater incidence of respiratory illness amongst the public at this time of year. Like seasonal influenza, severe respiratory infections are also transmitted from person to person via the respiratory route. Coughs and sneezes release germs into the air where they can be breathed in by others. SRI symptoms from those seriously ill in Mexico include high fever, headache, eye pain, shortness of breath and extreme fatigue with rapid progression of symptoms to severe respiratory distress in about five days.

PHAC is currently developing a travel health notice for Canadians going to and returning from Mexico that will be shared with British Columbians. In the meantime, Canadians travelling to Mexico are reminded of all the usual preventive measures against seasonal influenza, e.g. receiving a seasonal flu shot, frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when ill.

The public is advised to call HealthLink BC 8-1-1 at any time if they have questions/concerns to better prepare or reduce risk or spread of the illness.

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