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Flu more widespread

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Published: 11 Jun 2009

The World Health Organization has announced that H1N1 flu (once referred to as “swine flu”) has become a global pandemic. 

It is important to understand that this development refers to the wider spread of the illness, not a particular increase in its intensity or severity. Reports this week put the number of laboratory-confirmed cases around the world at roughly 26,500, including 249 deaths.

As of June 10, 2009, a total of 2,978 laboratory-confirmed cases of H1N1 flu virus have been reported in all Canadian provinces and territories – except Newfoundland and Labrador – with Quebec accounting for 611 of those cases. Four deaths have been linked to the virus in Canada. More detailed information and periodic updates on the virus’s spread in Canada can be found on the Public Health Agency of Canada's website.

Fortunately, while widespread, the virus is not resulting in a large number of serious illnesses or deaths. Most people who contract H1N1 suffer comparatively mild symptoms that include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who have been infected with this H1N1 virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting.

If you have these symptoms, stay home from work or school and consult a medical professional. 

The H1N1 flu is managed as most other viral respiratory illnesses – with rest, fluids, and medications to reduce fever and muscle aches. If symptoms get worse or you feel you are seriously ill, please go immediately to the nearest Emergency Department and inform the medical personnel of your symptoms.

It is important to remember the most effective ways to avoid transmission of this virus are to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently and to cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm, not your hands.

McGill is in close contact with public health authorities in Quebec and monitoring the spread of the virus carefully. It will be impossible to prevent members of the McGill community from coming into contact with this virus. The reality is that nothing will prevent the virus from making its way onto our campuses, particularly downtown where we are located in the heart of a major urban area with thousands of people coming and going every day. Some of us will very likely get a case of the flu, just as many of us routinely get a case of the flu every winter. Again, we urge you to take the simple, but proven precautions outlined above to help stem the spread of this virus.  

This message will be updated as new information is obtained. Updates are also available at the Jewish General Hospital’s telephone hotline at 514-340-8222, extensions 6500 (French) and 6501 (English).

For more information about H1N1 flu, please visit www.mcgill.ca/health.

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