Monday, June 15, 2009

Indian Country Today: Inuit hit hard by H1N1 swine flu

H1N1 influenza outbreaks in Canada’s predominantly Inuit territories of Nunavut and northern Manitoba could trigger the World Health Organization to declare a global pandemic.

WHO briefed reporters June 9 that reports to the agency of infections in Inuit communities in Canada showed “disproportionate numbers of serious cases occurring,” said WHO senior official Keiji Fukuda.

He said the agency is seeing “a larger number than expected of young Inuit people developing serious illnesses requiring hospitalization,” but said any speculation as to causes such as genetic, environmental or due to underlying diseases is premature.

The agencies concern followed reports that the number of H1N1 cases doubled June 9 in the aboriginal community of Nunavut, from 25 to 53. In northeast Manitoba more than half of the 26 persons hospitalized on respirators are aboriginals.

Nunavut’s chief medical officer, Dr. Isaac Sobol, downplayed WHO’s report, telling reporters June 9 he didn’t see a “disproportionate number of serious cases,” in Inuit communities.

But the next day, CBC News Canada reported that 43 new cases were confirmed in Nunavut, bringing the total to 96. Manitoba reported four new aboriginal cases among 16 new cases.

Indian Country Today: Inuit hit hard by H1N1 swine flu

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