I'm sure that you've been reading and watching the news about the swine flu.  It is clear that this flu has spread further into the U.S. than we thought last week, and that Canada now has confirmed cases and suspected cases.  It is also clear that this virus is new and that it is going to take some time for the monitoring bodies to understand how many cases, how far it has spread and how it is affecting various segments of the population.  The good news is that many people have had this illness and recovered, and that it responds to treatment with Tamiflu.  As I said in my first e-mail, flu makes you feel miserable and if this flu arrives here and spreads, a lot of us will end up spending some time in bed.

At UHN we will, as always, stay on top of the information and take the steps we feel necessary.  At the moment, every patient with a respiratory illness and fever is being asked about their travel history and our staff are following the standard precautions for working with flu patients.  From everything I've been told by our staff in the emergency departments, they are not seeing any more cases of flu than they normally would at the end of the flu season.  Should this change, I will certainly let everyone know.

We are doing some of the preparatory work in terms of supplies and planning that would help us continue to function well, should there be a spread of this flu in Toronto.  We are also in contact with other hospitals and health care agencies in an effort to plan and work together.  I will be using Straight Talk for regular updates and to respond to questions that we're hearing about this situation.

"One question which has come up is whether, if you haven't had your flu shot this year, should you get it now?"  I expect that we will get a recommendation from the provincial committee on infectious diseases later this week on this question.  However, as this is the end of flu season, there may not be a lot of vaccine left and, in any event, because this is a new virus, the flu vaccine available is likely to have no effect on this particular strain.  My opinion -- it's always a good idea to have a flu shot, but there's no reason to think that it would help against this particular strain so it comes down to personal choice and availability.


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