Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer reacted calmly Thursday to the World Health Organization's designation of the swine flu outbreak as a global pandemic, characterizing the virus as widespread but not severe.
Dr. Moira McKinnon said the WHO's Phase 6 pandemic alert would not change how the province would monitor and cope with the H1N1 influenza A virus, which has been spreading throughout the world since it originated in Mexico in April.
"What difference is it going to make to how we are responding to the pandemic? Not really a lot," said McKinnon at a news conference in Saskatoon.
McKinnon said the situation would, nevertheless, be closely monitored.
"[The WHO alert] does not mean that the risk to Saskatchewan residents is higher today that it was yesterday," McKinnon said. "It is an indication of the spread of the H1N1 virus, not necessarily its severity. Cases in Saskatchewan continue to be mild to moderate."
However, McKinnon did acknowledge that there was a new battleground in the fight to prevent the spread of H1N1: Saskatchewan's north, especially First Nations communities.
"We need to find out: is it really true that indigenous communities are getting more severe illness?" McKinnon said. "If the answer to that is 'Yes', then we change our policies in regard to resources in regard to treatment."
As of Thursday, there were 221 confirmed cases of swine flu in Saskatchewan, and no associated deaths.
RCMP Depot Division has 3 cases
Late in the day, the RCMP issued a news release to say that three cadets in training at the RCMP Academy in Regina, known as the Depot Division, had tested positive for the flu virus.
It was not known if those cases were included in the overall count for Saskatchewan.
The RCMP said all three cases were mild and that the sick cadets had been isolated from the rest of the trainees.
Another 14 cadets were also under quarantine, as they were showing flu-like symptoms.