Reserves focus of H1N1 preparation
- Reserves focus of H1N1 preparation
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq says Canada will be ready for H1N1, with vaccine available to anyone who needs it starting in October or November when worldwide supplies are ready.
Tom Fletcher/Black Press
By Tom Fletcher - BC Local News
Published: August 31, 2009 5:00 PM
Updated: August 31, 2009 5:26 PM
VICTORIA - Aboriginal communities will be a high priority in government's response to the H1N1 influenza outbreak expected this year, federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq says.
Aglukkaq visited the B.C. legislature Monday to meet with provincial and aboriginal officials.
Coping with the new influenza strain in remote communities with poor health and social conditions is a particular challenge, as outbreaks on reserves have already shown. Another factor is the large number of young people and pregnant women in aboriginal communities, who are at greater risk from the influenza strain that emerged in Mexico earlier this year and has spread around the world.
"In Nunavut, in my riding alone we have 560 cases of H1N1," Aglukkaq said. "Eighty-five per cent of my population are Inuit, and of the population 50 per cent are under the age of 25."
Grand Chief Doug Kelly and Grand Chief Ed John of the B.C. First Nations Leadership Council met with Aglukkaq and B.C. Minister of Healthy Living and Sport Ida Chong. They agreed that the H1N1 threat is an important test of the three-way agreement reached with Ottawa and Victoria to improve health conditions on reserve, but both chiefs stressed that underlying social problems are the key to progress.
"Overcrowded housing, poverty, inadequate diets, are all recipes for a pandemic," Kelly said.
"So when we resolve those problems, we reduce the likelihood of suffering from the outcomes of H1N1."
John noted that a recent report by provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall took the first comprehensive look at aboriginal health, and found little or no progress was being made. Aboriginal people on average die seven years younger than other B.C. residents.
Aglukkaq was heading to a meeting in Winnipeg Monday afternoon with medical specialists who have worked with the most severe H1N1 cases.
"We are on track in the development of the vaccine for distribution in the fall, and we've also said that any person in Canada who wants to be vaccinated will be able to be vaccinated," Aglukkaq said. "What's being discussed is how we will sequence the distribution of that. And that's important because we don't know how severe the cases will be come the fall."
Chong said pandemic preparedness work has been underway for some time in B.C. with a special emphasis on remote and aboriginal communities due to their high risk. Anti-viral drugs, sanitation supplies and other medical equipment are ready to go, and the province has two aboriginal doctors who are working with communities on health plans and rapid response in case of an outbreak.
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