Manitoba confirms case of swine flu in Brandon girl

Manitoba's first case of swine flu has been confirmed in a girl from Brandon, who recently returned from a trip to Mexico, parts of the United States, and British Columbia.

Manitoba's first case of swine flu has been confirmed in a girl from Brandon.

Manitoba's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Joel Kettner, said the girl — whose age has not been given — recently returned from a trip in April that took her to Mexico, parts of the United States, and British Columbia.

Medical officials said the girl's symptoms are mild and she does not require hospitalization. But they also say there is a good chance the virus has spread because she had already returned to classes at the Riverheights School following her trip.

"People every day get symptoms of an influenza-like illness. So yes, I expect that will continue," he said. "Will some of those cases be H1N1 influenza? I would not be surprised."

Still, Kettner said there is no need to close the kindergarten to Grade 8 school or quarantine the girl's family. He said that would be an overreaction.

Keeping all of those students at home would disrupt too many lives and accomplish little, he said.

"Imagine if all the schools in Manitoba closed down, or even one school or many schools, for a disease of which we don't have 100 cases across Canada and none of them have been hospitalized?" he said. "I think the bottom line is, if you feel well go to school."

To cause such disorder in the school would make the treatment worse than the disease, said Kettner, who added: "We are monitoring the situation very carefully."

Public health officials will be at Riverheights School Monday to provide information to parents, staff and students, said Kettner.

More than 1,000 cases worldwide

There are more than 1,000 confirmed cases of swine flu worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, which believes the outbreak can be traced to Mexico. There have been 20 deaths attributed to the illness so far — 19 in Mexico and one in the U.S.

All of the cases confirmed in Canada have been mild, say health officials in this country, who are emphasizing there is no need to panic. To put the outbreak into perspective, about 4,000 people die of seasonal flu every year in Canada.

Officials are, however, emphasizing the importance of proper hygiene to reduce the spread of flu: Avoid spreading germs by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, cover up when you cough or sneeze, and contact your doctor or health links.

They also say that if a week has passed since anyone was in Mexico or another swine flu-affected area, and those individuals have not exhibited any flu-like symptoms, there is no need to worry about becoming ill.

No risk to pork consumption

Meanwhile, Manitoba's chief veterinary officer, Dr. Wayne Lees, wants the public to know the swine flu is not affecting the province's swine population.

Mild cases of the disease have been found in some Alberta pigs but there have been no cases detected in Manitoba animals. Also, all of the infected animals in Alberta are recovering.

"We want to ensure people the food is safe, the food supply is safe and eating pork is safe," said Lees, adding that bio-security measures are in place to keep the illness out of Manitoba's pork industry.

He also stressed there is no evidence swine flu can be transmitted through the consumption of pork.