H1N1 "pandemic" hits remote B.C. Aboriginal towns
The Canadian Medical Association Journal reported Thursday that remote Aboriginal communities on Vancouver Island have been hit by the country's first "pandemic" outbreak of H1N1 flu.
The article quoted a Tofino, B.C. doctor saying that he had treated dozens of patients infected with the virus, though most of the cases were "fairly mild."
B.C. health officials "more or less told us to stop taking swabs because the lab is getting swamped in Vancouver," Dr. John Armstrong told the journal.
A B.C. health official called the journal article "inflammatory."
"There was no securing the facts before that was printed. I find that really unfortunate," said Dr. Charmaine Enns, the northern island medical health officer and medical director for aboriginal health for the Vancouver Island Health Authority.
The journal reported that the largest outbreak appeared to be in Ahousat, one of the main settlements of the Ahousaht First Nation and a community that can be accessed only by boat or plane.
Enns said there were a number of mild cases in Ahousat, and two other small communities in the area, but nobody had been hospitalized.
Shawn Atleo, chief of the Ahousaht First Nation, who was elected the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations in July, said Thursday there is an excellent plan in place for the prevention and isolation of the virus in Ahousat.
But Atleo said he does have broader concerns.
"First Nations are well known to be the most vulnerable," he said. "The lack of infrastructure and clean water show broader health issues need to be addressed."
Meanwhile, the Vancouver Island Health Authority confirmed that a patient from a Beecher Bay, just outside of Victoria, has died from the virus, but the death was not related to the outbreak affecting other Aboriginal communities.
Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Richard Stanwick said the patient had underlying health conditions.
With files from The Canadian Press