Colleagues,

Yesterday you received a notice from Infection Prevention and Control about the flu that is circulating in Mexico. This morning I spoke with a number of people about this flu and what we know to date and I will pass along the information as I receive it. You will also be hearing and reading about this flu in the news.

It appears that Canada has advance information about the flu because Mexico had sent samples to our testing laboratories and asked for our assistance in typing the flu. It also appears that the flu has been circulating in Mexico and likely California and Texas for some time now and that many, many people have been ill but have not required hospitalization. The World Health Organization is now watching this strain and trying to determine how far it has spread. We now know that this is a new flu type which has transmitted human to human and that this strain does respond to Tamiflu.

We will be staying on top of this situation and Dr. Susy Hota and Karen Stockton from our Infection Prevention and Control team will be leading the effort at UHN, with Dr. Michael Gardam playing a key role in the provincial response through his role in the Ontario Public Health Agency.

It is very difficult for all of us who lived through SARS not to have flashbacks to that experience but from everything that I've heard so far, this is a strain of flu - something that we deal with every season. Because this is new strain of flu, it is likely that most of us won't have antibodies to it and that means more of us may catch it and spend some miserable time in bed. But, as Susy Hota points out, this is a flu at the end of flu season which means that the warm and humid weather will assist in reducing the spread.

So, our approach to dealing with this flu will be to rigourously follow the precautions we use as part of our normal practice. When a patient presents with an unknown respiratory illness, we take the precautions outlined in the document circulated yesterday by IPAC. These are familiar to all of our health care workers and particularly familiar to our staff in the Emergency Departments and clinics.

And for each of us, we'll need to monitor our own health and stay home when we're sick. We'll need to wash our hands a lot and use the sanitizing gel that is available throughout the hospital, and we'll need to stay informed. I will be sending out messages as I get information and we will be taking the necessary measures to help protect everyone who works at UHN.

Bob Bell

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