Health officials brace for Nunavik’s first swine flu cases
First sign will be spike in hospital, clinic visits
Public health officials say they are bracing for the first batch of cases of the H1N1 flu in Nunavik.
While no cases have been confirmed, they are certain H1N1 will come to Nunavik — if it’s not already around the region.
“We know this will circulate around Nunavik because it’s in other regions,” said Dr. Jean-François Proulx from Nunavik’s public health unit in Quebec City.
The first sign of the flu’s presence in Nunavik will be a spike in visits to local health clinics and hospitals in Puvirnituq and Kuujjuaq by people with serious flu symptoms, Proulx said.
Every Monday, public health officials in Nunavik study the number of consultations from Nunavimmiut complaining of flu or flu-like symptoms of fever and cough.
“We look at numbers. If there are 100 and if two are for flu, that’s within the normal range of two to 5 per cent. But if the numbers are between to 10 and 20 cases [per 100], we can say something new is coming in,” Proulx said.
When that occurs, health clinics are alerted and health officials work on how to best treat and prevent the further spread of illness.
In Quebec, only patients with severe cases of flu, who end up in the hospital, are being tested for the H1N1, Proulx said.
“It would overwhelm our diagnostic services and we know that’s what’s going around,” he said. “We know that the seasonal flu isn’t going around now. What’s circulating is the H1N1.”
So far, the percentage of people in Quebec who have fallen seriously ill or died from H1N1 has been no higher than during other flu outbreaks.
To avoid spreading H1N1, the advice from Nunavik’s public health officials is for anyone who has mild flu symptoms to stay at home, wash their hands frequently and wear a mask.
Masks are available free at health clinics around Nunavik.
“The idea isn’t to infect other people,” Proulx said.