News & Events
Take precautions during the flu season
January 10, 2014

With the recent release of information regarding a death due to the H5N1 avian flu virus the Southern Chief’s Organization (SCO) would like to remind all First Nations to remain vigilant and take precautions during the flu season.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the H5N1 virus is a bird flu virus that can cause outbreaks in poultry. Health officials stressed that there is no evidence of the virus spreading between people travelling on airplanes and continue to monitor the flu viruses, including H5N1, that may gain the ability to spread rapidly between people and cause severe disease.

The Public Health Agency of Canada’s FluWatch states that the H5N1 bird flu is not the same as the seasonal flu and the H1N1 strain first identified in 2009 is the main version of flu circulating this year.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) reported that there have only been 13 cases of the flu and the influenza numbers have remained manageable. The WRHA suggests that any vulnerable people with flu-like symptoms should seek medical attention early; this includes children, the elderly, those with a weak immune system and pregnant women. SCO suggests asking your health professional to advise you about the safety of any vaccines before getting vaccinated.

The SCO is committed to disease surveillance and will work closely with its public health partners and other provincial health authorities to ensure the health and safety of First Nations people.

The SCO would like to remind First Nations that our communities face many unique challenges when preparing for flu outbreaks and should take time to know who to call for information regarding vaccinations. Along with issues of culture and jurisdiction, First Nation communities may encounter additional challenges as a result of being from a remote or isolated community.

As with any outbreak of influenza precautions should be taken to limit its transmission. In First Nations communities where boil advisories are in effect extra precautions should be taken; such as the use of hand sanitizers.

Since the symptoms for the H1N1 strain are the same as those as the standard flu people who are normally healthy but experience difficult or painful breathing, extreme drowsiness or confusion, coughing up bloody sputum (phlegm or saliva), wheezing, fever for three to four days that is not getting better or is getting worse, sudden return of high fever and other symptoms after initial improvement, extreme ear pain, should seek medical attention.