Friday, November 13, 2009

Latest Deaths Reveal That 'Exaggeration' over H1N1 Has Been Proven to Be False

There was a poll released yesterday that gave some rather surprising results. First off, the Reform Conservatives were down to 36.5% popularity, once again putting a majority out of Harper's reach, hopefully. Mind you he was able to use our money to purchase two byelections, so it may give him another blip, but polls outside of an election rarely mean much. Kim Campbell had Jean Chretien down into the teens, and Chretien came back to win a majority.

In 2006, Harper started out the election at 23%.

But the surprising part of the poll was that most Canadians believe that the H1N1 threat was exaggerated. Some headlines even referred to the pandemic as a "dud". A failure because it didn't kill enough people?

Well news today shows that this feeling of complacency may have been premature because deaths in Canada have risen dramatically in the past few days, showing that this is something that we can't take lightly. And with threats of a third wave that will hit again in February, it's too soon to dismiss this as a 'dud".

And comparing this to death from ordinary flu, is not a reasonable claim. People who die from flu usually have other illnesses or are vulnerable for a variety of reasons. H1N1 is claiming the lives of healthy people, especially children. Our government was too slow to respond to this.

Caroline Alphonso and Karen Howlett
TORONTO — Globe and Mail
November 13, 2009

A sudden spike in H1N1 deaths over the past week reveals that the pandemic virus is taking a far greater toll on Canadians during the second wave, raising fears that it is just as severe, if not worse, than seasonal flu.

Ontario's confirmed tally of fatalities jumped to 61 from 37 last week; five more people died in Alberta since Tuesday; Quebec confirmed four deaths in the past 24 hours; and British Columbia recorded eight more deaths over the past week.

More than 190 Canadians have died from H1N1 - and with additional deaths expected, health officials say there is a heightened urgency to get more people vaccinated quickly, especially the young who have been so badly affected.

The death tally, which in the spring averaged two to four a week, is at least three times higher during this second wave as the virus spreads. "We haven't seen the peak yet, in my view," David Butler-Jones, Canada's chief public health officer, said yesterday. "We will continue to see, unfortunately, more people in ICUs and hospitals, and, unfortunately, more deaths as well."

The youngest victim so far was a two-month-old baby boy from London, Ont., who died earlier this month. H1N1 disproportionately affects younger people because it resembles a strain of flu that circulated before 1957, to which older people have been exposed.

Health officials on the ground are seeing more Canadians filling emergency rooms or showing severe H1N1 symptoms. In B.C., for example, there have been 202 new severe cases identified since the beginning of the month, for a total of 601 since April when the virus was first identified.

Michael Gardam, director of infectious diseases prevention and control at the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion, said that as more people begin coming down with the virus, the death tally will continue climbing for a few more weeks.

"To my mind, it's purely a marker that there's more flu out there," Dr. Gardam said. "The virus has not mutated. It's no more nasty than it was before. There's just more people with it."

Some health officials have questioned the intense government focus on H1N1, saying it is a mild virus that has killed fewer people than the seasonal flu. The seasonal flu kills about 4,000 people each year and results in the hospitalization of tens of thousands more, but those deaths are estimated, whereas H1N1 deaths are confirmed.

"It's not fair to make the comparison," said Kumanan Wilson, Canada research chair in public-health policy at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. "On the ground level, this is definitely not that much milder than the seasonal flu as those mortality stats would suggest. It's as bad, if not worse as regular seasonal flu. That's the clinical experience."

In the United States, numbers released yesterday show swine flu has killed an estimated 3,900 Americans, including more than 500 children, between April and mid-October; it has infected an estimated 22 million people and put 98,000 in hospital. The count is an extrapolation based on data from 10 states.

"What we are seeing in 2009 is unprecedented," said Anne Schuchat of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And there's still a long flu season ahead. "I think projecting out forward is difficult."

In Canada, about seven million doses of vaccine have so far been distributed to provinces and territories, and more will keep flowing over the next few weeks. Canada has ordered 50 million doses. Dr. Butler-Jones said surveys are being conducted and modelling done to get a sense of how many Canadians had the flu. But he said there's no reason to extrapolate the number of deaths in Canada, because health authorities are closely tracking that data.

"I'm sure that there's some that we're missing. But most are getting picked up, particularly the ICU ones, and obviously the deaths. So I don't think we're missing a lot in terms of the severe cases," he said.

"We don't know for sure how many Canadians have had the flu ... [but we'll] try and get some estimates as we go forward."

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