Severe respiratory illness in Mexico

Canadian health officials have warned that there’s an outbreak of severe respiratory illness in Mexico.  They are asking people who visited Mexico to watch out for flu-like symptoms. More than 130 people have become ill and 7 have died. Texas and California have detected a new strain of swine flu, which may be related. The cases in the U.S. were in people who did not have contact with pigs.

There have been no cases in Canada, but our national laboratory in Winnipeg is testing 51 samples from Mexico to see if they are related to the cases in the U.S.

michaelagardamIf the link is made, it may signal the emergence of a new pandemic virus, infection control specialist Dr. Michael Gardam, told CBC News in an interview Thursday night.

“It certainly is suspicious that you have a new strain of swine flu showing up just north of the Mexican border, and you have an outbreak of cases south in Mexico,” he said.

“We already have the Americans talking about the H1N1 strain, which is a new strain they haven’t seen before.… If you had evidence that this strain was also in Mexico, you would have further evidence that something new has shown up which has the ability to go person-to-person and has crossed borders as well.”

However, there is no reason to panic, said Gardam.

“A pandemic virus basically means a virus that is going to affect a large proportion of the population. It doesn’t mean they’re going to get necessarily all that sick.”

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