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Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 Virus
(Human Swine Influenza, Influenza A (H1N1))
Updated October 6, 2014
For general information on influenza and pandemic influenza, see our Influenza and Pandemic Influenza webpage
Confirmed cases of Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus, commonly called 'swine flu', which originated in Mexico around March 18, 2009, have occurred around the globe and are now in decline. Many deaths have been associated with this outbreak.
In Canada, Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus was confirmed in all provinces and territories and carried a mortality rate of 1.3 per 100,000 population. The highest hospitalization rates occurred in children aged less than 5 years of age. Influenza activity for the 2009-2010 far exceed the expected range and occurred in two distinct waves. The peak period for the first wave was May 31/09 to June 20/09, and for the second wave October 25/09 to November 14/09). The 2013-2014 season saw another spike in cases across the country. For weekly reports, visit Canada's FluWatch site.
Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus totals in Canada:
|Season||# cases*||# deaths|
*(confirmed cases by subtyping)
The following information has been retained for historical purposes. Please note that some links may no longer be working.
Most cases of H1N1 flu have occurred in previously health young adults aged 25-44 years old or older adults with chronic underlying conditions such as diabetes, tuberculosis or cardiovascular diseases. Groups that appear to be at increased risk for severe disease and death from infection include persons with pulmonary disease such as asthma, immunosuppression, chronic heart disease, pregnant women, children under five years of age and those with chronic conditions. [ref: WHO].
Pregnant women are not more likely to get the H1N1 flu, but if they do get it, they are more likely to suffer complications such as pneumonia or severe respiratory distress. Severe complications from the flu could lead to early delivery or miscarriage. The H1N1 vaccine is recommended for all pregnant women at any stage of their pregnancy.
Clinical symptoms of H1N1 flu include: [ref: Public Health Agency of Canada]
Rapid progression of symptoms to severe respiratory distress may occur within 5 days. Individuals should seek immediate medical attention if they have any of the following symptoms:
Influenza is spread from person to person via droplets when coughing or sneezing and by touching objects and surfaces that are contaminated with the virus (e.g. doorknobs, telephones) and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. The influenza virus may persist for hours in dried mucus and be transmitted by direct contact. It is spread very easily indoors, which is why it is so prevalent in the winter months in northern countries, when people spend more time together inside. A person with H1N1 flu is believed to be infectious one day before onset of symptoms and up to 7 days after the start of symptoms. [ref: Public Health Agency of Canada]
Measures to Reduce the Spread of Influenza
There is no evidence to suggest that wearing masks will prevent the spread of infection in the general population. Improper use of masks may in fact increase the risk of infection. Masks do not act as an effective barrier against disease when they are worn for extended periods of time. In addition, removing your mask incorrectly can spread virus to your hands and face.
Health Care Settings
In health care settings, Routine Practices should be used consistently with all patients including:
Emergency Departments should apply screening to all patients who present with respiratory symptoms. Laboratory testing for Pandemic H1N1 2009 virus is not recommended for patients with mild illness. Specimens should only be submitted for testing where lab results are required for clinical management of hospitalized cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) or where patients are at high risk for complications from influenza.
There is no risk of infection from this virus from consumption of well-cooked port or pork products.
Treatment of influenza usually involves making the person more comfortable – increasing fluid intake and getting plenty of rest. Antibiotics do not kill viruses and have no role in treating influenza in otherwise healthy people, although they may be used to treat complications, such as pneumonia.
Antiviral drugs for influenza are an important adjunct to influenza vaccine for the treatment and prevention of influenza. However, they are not a substitute for vaccination. When taken before infection or during early stage of the disease (within two days of illness onset), antivirals may help prevent infection, and if infection has already taken hold, their early administration may reduce the duration of symptoms by one to two days.
Laboratory testing has found the Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus to be resistant to amantadine and rimantidine and susceptible to the prescription antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir, although isolated cases of resistance have occurred.
In severe influenza, admission to hospital, intensive care, antibiotic therapy to prevent secondary infection and breathing support may be required.
Updated May 18, 2009
As of May 18, 2009, the Public Health Agency of Canada no longer recommends Canadians postpone elective or non-essential travel to Mexico.
PHAC recommends that travellers at risk of complications from any form of influenza such as those with chronic conditions (for example diabetes, lung disease, heart disease), elderly, pregnant women or children under 2 years of age, discuss the risk of travel with their health care provider before going to Mexico.
See also: The Lancet's H1N1 Flu Resource Centre
Table of Contents
- Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 Virus Update
- Prevention & Control Measures
- Current Global Case Count
- Travel Advisories
- H1N1 Publications
Elmo Learns about the Flu
Your Questions Answered...
Dr. Michael Gardam, CHICA-Canada's Physician Director answers your questions about H1N1
Why Don't We Do It In Our Sleeves?