Three new cases of swine flu have been diagnosed in British Columbia, including the first case the province has seen of a person contracting the virus from another person, health officials confirmed Wednesday.
The news comes just as the spread of swine flu around the world has prompted the World Health Organization to raise its pandemic alert to Level 5 on a six-level scale, indicating increased human-to-human spread of the virus.
The three new cases are all located in the Lower Mainland and are said to be recovering well.
The new cases bring the total number in the province to six.
Of the three previous cases, two were on the Lower Mainland and have since recovered, and the third was on southern Vancouver Island and is said to be recovering well.
Dr. David Patrick of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said the sixth confirmed case of swine flu in the province involved "secondary transmission."
"Public health is still interviewing and trying to find out a bit more, but we know the individual had a lot of contact with travellers," Patrick said.
No changes at B.C. schools
It is not yet clear if the new development will cause any changes in the way schools are operating in B.C.
What to do if you're sick
Health officials are advising people with a fever or cough illness to:
- Stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them, regardless of whether or where they have travelled.
- See a doctor if their symptoms become worse, but call ahead of time to say they have a fever or cough illness.
People without symptoms are advised to:
- Cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when they sneeze.
- Throw the tissue in the trash afterwards.
- Cough into their sleeve if necessary.
- Wash their hands often with soap and water, especially after they cough or sneeze.
- Use alcohol-based hand cleaners, which are also effective.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Avoid touching their own eyes, nose or mouth.
Before the new cases were announced on Wednesday afternoon. B.C. school officials said they were watching the swine flu situation closely, but they were not taking any extraordinary steps.
Surrey School District's communications manager Doug Strachan, said the Fraser Health Authority did issue a letter asking schools to reiterate messages about handwashing and other precautions against the flu, but otherwise it's business as usual for students.
Edmonton's school board recently cancelled all field trips outside of Canada, along with all air travel in Canada for both students and staff, but Strachan said such measures are not being taken in Surrey.
"We have not made any consideration to change any of our programs or extra curricular activities or field trip, and in fact Fraser Health is advising me continue all of our education programs and school activities as per usual," said Strachan.
The situation is much the same in Vancouver, according to David Weir, the communications manager for the Vancouver School Board.
"It is a situation that is being monitored on a regular basis, and we'll be continuing to seek updates as new information comes available," said Weir.
Other districts said they're staying in touch with their local health authorities and will take action only if and when they're advised to.
Flu spreading worldwide
B.C. officials confirmed that as of noon PT Wednesday, there were 19 confirmed swine influenza cases in Canada: six cases in British Columbia, two cases in Alberta, seven cases in Ontario and four cases in Nova Scotia. All cases reported so far have been relatively mild.
The World Health Organization has reported that nine countries have officially reported cases of swine influenza. The United States government has reported 91 confirmed human cases, including hospitalizations, and one death of an infant.
Mexico has reported 26 confirmed human cases of infection, including seven deaths, although the number of possible cases there could be significantly higher.
Other confirmed swine flu cases include: one case in Austria, three cases in Germany, two cases in Israel, three cases in New Zealand, four cases in Spain and five cases in the United Kingdom. Officials in Switzerland announced that country's first confirmed case of the infection early Thursday morning.