The Grand Council of the Crees

Cree Health Board responds to the human swine influenza outbreak

Press Release, Questions and Answers About Human Swine Flu

Posted: 2009-05-01

The Cree Board of Health and Social Services is actively working to protect the people of liyiyiu Aschii from the new human swine flu virus. The Health Board, communities, and individuals all have a part to play. Residents of liyiyiu Aschii are being asked to take preventive measures to help protect each other. Our best line of defence is regular and repeated hand washing. When coughing and sneezing, people are advised to take a clean tissue or raise their arm up to their face and use their sleeve. They are also being asked to avoid unnecessary travel to Mexico.

There is no pandemic right now. Public health departments around the world have been expecting a flu pandemic for several years and have been on alert because of the threat of bird flu. On April 27, the World Health Organization declared that we are at a slightly higher level of alert. Over the past three years, the Cree Health Board's Public Health Department has developed a plan in the event of a flu pandemic. This plan follows guidelines from the Quebec Ministry of Health and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Health services in the Cree communities have been asked to

Members of the public who have traveled to areas where human swine flu has been declared in the past week, and have symptoms of flu, are being asked to call their local clinic in advance.

The Health Board has set up a working group that will meet several times a week. It will also have regular conference calls with the command centre at Quebec's Ministry of Health. Regular updates will be issued to staff and the communities.

For further information, you may consult the attached Questions and Answers sheet, or visit these web sites:

Quebec Ministry of Health
Public Health Agency of Canada - Cree Board of Health. Public Health Department site

Public Health Agency of Canada toll-free number: 1-800 454 8302

Media inquiries:

Linda Jones
Executive Assistant Director of Public
(418) 770-5776


Q1 What are the symptoms of human swine flu?

Swine flu has the same kind of symptoms as regular flu-like fever, cough, muscle aches and pains, sore throat, feeling tired, and lack of appetite. Some people with swine flu also throw up and have diarrhea.

Q2 How is human swine flu spread?

Flu germs can be passed back and forth between humans and pigs. This usually happens in places like pig farms and livestock shows at fairs. When swine (pig) flu is passed from one person to another, the virus is probably spread the same way as regular flu.

Regular flu is spread when it gets into people's lungs. Coughs and sneezes release flu germs into the air where they can be breathed in by others. Germs can also live on hard surfaces like counters and doorknobs. People who touch the doorknobs get the germs on their hands. Then when they touch their mouth or nose, the virus can get into their lungs and make them sick.

Q3 What is the Incubation period of the human swine flu?

We think it takes between two and nine days from the time a person is exposed to the swine flu germ to the time they get sick.

Q4 Are all of the cases of human swine flu severe?

No. The cases of swine flu reported in the United States, Canada and other countries have so far been milder than those reported in Mexico.

The cases reported in Mexico have been more severe. In Mexico, healthy young people have gone from slightly sick to dangerously sick in about five days.

Q5 What is the difference between seasonal flu, bird flu, swine flu, and a flu pandemic?

Influenza (flu) viruses are common. Different strains can cause illness in humans, birds, and pigs. These flu's all cause the same symptoms.

Regular seasonal flu affects humans. We build up some immunity to flu germs that go around regularly. A seasonal flu shot can also help.

Bird flu is a virus that commonly affects birds, and swine flu is a strain of the virus that usually affects pigs.

Sometimes, humans and animals can pass strains of flu back and forth to one another. People can get bird flu or swine flu, especially if they are in direct contact with an animal that has it. When this happens, there is a risk that the virus can mutate (change shape) and gain the ability to spread between humans. This can turn into a new strain of flu that humans don't have any immunity against.

An influenza pandemic could happen if a new or different flu virus appears that spreads easily between humans. We don't have any immunity built up against new viruses. So if the virus spreads easily from person to person, the result could be a pandemic.

Q6 Is this the next influenza pandemic?

Pandemic flu is defined as a new flu virus that spreads easily between humans. The swine flu virus seems to be a new one, and it does seem to spread from human to human. However, we still need to know more about how severe this flu is, and how easily it can be spread. Public health experts are looking into this.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) decides when something is a pandemic. He also issues worldwide" alerts of varying levels, from low to high. Canada is working with the United States, Mexico, and others to help assess how big the risk is. (Link - WHO Pandemic Alert Phases:

Q7 If this turns Into a pandemic, how long will it take for Canada to make a vaccine against it?

Canada has a contract with Glaxo-Smith-Kline (a drug company) to make vaccine for Canadians if a pandemic happens. Once the shape of the new virus has been identified, it will take up to six months to make and test a good vaccine.

Q8 How can people avoid getting human swine flu?

The risk of spreading germs-including swine flu germs- goes down if people

Health workers are checking if this year's flu shot might also help a bit against the new swine flu.

Q9 Are cases of human swine flu common In Canada?

Human swine flu cases are not common in Canada. Over the past few years, we have seen about one case per year of the North American strain of human swine flu.

Q10 Can you get human swine flu from eating pork?

No. Proper cooking of pork products would kill any viruses.

Adapted from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Elizabeth Robinson MD.