H1N1 cases spike to 291 in Manitoba
First Nations leader snubs vaccine in favour of traditional medicine
Last Updated: Thursday, November 12, 2009 | 4:49 PM CT
The number of lab-confirmed cases of H1N1 in Manitoba has skyrocketed.
There were 225 additional cases of the H1N1 in the past week, bringing the total to 291, health officials reported on Thursday. There has also been one death attributed to complications from the illness, also known as swine flu.
Health officials announced the death on Tuesday, but would only say the victim was an adult between ages 18 and 65 who had underlying medical conditions.
There were seven deaths in Manitoba during the spring wave of the virus.
Two people who have been confirmed to have swine flu are on ventilators to assist their breathing, health officials said Thursday.
They also noted the 291 confirmed cases of H1N1 do not come close to indicating how many people have been infected by the virus because many people don't bother to go to the hospital when they have mild symptoms.
Officials would not say where the infected people live. The provincial government's protocol since the spring outbreak of swine flu has been to not reveal which communities have confirmed cases for fear it will stigmatize them.
Not getting the shot
Morris Shannacappo, the grand chief of the Southern Chiefs Organization, is choosing traditional medicine over the H1N1 vaccine. (CBC)Although health officials have said people of aboriginal ancestry are at high risk to contract H1N1 and are on the priority list for vaccinations, one Manitoba First Nations leader came out on Thursday to say he will not be getting the H1N1 vaccine.
Morris Shannacappo, the grand chief of the Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO), said he is not sold on the effectiveness of the vaccine and is instead choosing to fortify his immune system with traditional First Nations medicines.
"There [are] traditional healers right across our nations here, and I've heard about three or four different remedies that are used and we're using two of them in my house, in our community," he said.
Shannacappo, chief of Rolling River First Nation, about 250 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, said his decision is not intended to influence anyone else.
A traditional First Nations tea mixture is being relied on as a defence against the H1N1 virus by the chief of the Rolling River First Nation. (CBC)"Check your options," he said. "I'm not a doctor and I'm certainly not going to tell people — and start using scare tactics — don't take the needle. It's a personal thing between you and your family."
For those who do want to follow his lead, Shannacappo said he's making a traditional tea mixture available for anyone on Rolling River who wants it.
Nearly two-thirds of people on the reserve have been vaccinated with the H1N1 dose so far, he noted. There are approximately 430 people who live in the community.
Across the province, close to 200,000 shots have been given since clinics opened on Oct. 26. Of those, 106,302 people have received the vaccine in Winnipeg as of 4 p.m. on Thursday.
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