Sask. government 'still preparing a response' to open letter on Zika virus, says Duncan

Saskatchewan's Health Minister Dustin Duncan says his ministry is still looking into the specifics of Zika virus concerns raised this week.

Zika virus something Saskatchewn needs to be prepared for: Health Minister Dustin Duncan

Health Minister Dustin Duncan says Saskatchewan is still looking into the threat of the Zika virus. (CBC)

Saskatchewan's Health Minister Dustin Duncan says his ministry is still looking into the specifics of Zika virus concerns raised this week.

On Monday, medical geneticist and retired professor of pediatrics Edmond Lemire wrote an open letter to the Saskatchewan minister saying that the province would not be prepared for a Zika virus-type outbreak. He said Saskatchewan lacks good baseline data on congenital anomalies or birth defects in the province to properly study the threat of Zika virus in the province.

"It is something that we want to make sure that we're prepared for in the event that this is something the Saskatchewan health care system is going to have to be dealing with," Duncan told reporters. "I can't go too far into the response to the specific concerns that have been raised in the letter, because we just received it in the last couple of days and we're still preparing a response to it."

I think we will be as prepared as we possibly can for this.- Dustin Duncan, health minister

When asked if the province was prepared for the virus, Duncan said, "I think we will be as prepared as we possibly can for this, but again it's still pretty early just in terms of the public discourse and in the conversations that we're having behind the scenes." Although the mosquito that transmits the virus is not present in Canada, there have been three confirmed cases in Quebec.

Lemire's letter said the province needs a congenital anomalies surveillance system. He said if there were a system, experts could have an accurate baseline on the prevalence of birth defects, track trends to create prevention strategies and service planning, investigate changes to see if there are environmental causes to birth defects and provide information to health care professionals.

"I think it's too soon to make any commitments around that," Duncan said in regards to the surveillance system, saying that the recommendation for one still had not been made to him. "If they were to make that recommendation, it's something that we'd obviously have to consider seriously."

Earlier this week, the chief medical health officer with the Ministry of Health, Dr. Saqib Shahab, said Canada uses the national surveillance system, and that the pilot project for a Saskatchewan one was not sustainable.

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