Thursday, July 16, 2009

H1N1 Swine Flu Sweeps Across Canadian Provinces Summer Camps

Hundreds of children at three Muskoka, Ontario summer camps have caught the H1N1 flu virus – commonly called “Swine Flu.” Health officials confirmed yesterday that 227 children have contracted the deadly virus, but all cases are mild, and pose no immediate risk.

Summertime in Canada is a time to slow down, to relax in the great outdoors. Schools out, and many kids are sent to summer camps to play, learn and grow in northern communities, which thrive during the summer months. These cottage-based communities have an influx of visitors from across the province, and around the world, as people from all over come to enjoy the fresh country air, swim and fish in local lakes, ponds and streams, or just to soak up some sun on the many beaches.

An outbreak of any virus is never a good thing, especially when children are involved. But when that outbreak occurs in a community at the peak of its tourist season, more harm may come, as there are more people coming and going into town.

Which is why the summer hotspot of Muskoka, in Ontario, Canada is the worst place to have a Swine Flu outbreak. Muskoka, made famous in Canada by the so-called “Muskoka Chair” – a wooden deck chair commonly found in the region – could have an even bigger problem, if the H1N1 Swine Flu virus isn’t contained to just the summ

H1n1Image by kodomut via Flickr

er camps affected.

The number of Swine Flu cases are declining in the area, which health officials say is a good sign, as it means control measures are working to contain the deadly virus. However, the outbreak is still being assessed, as it is estimated that about 20 percent of the kids at the three summer camps have contracted the H1N1 Swine Flu bug.

So far, 61 staff members at the three camps have also contracted the H1N1 Swine Flu virus, and they have all been isolated at their respective camp sites to prevent further contamination. Most of the infected children have been sent home.

The logic behind sending the infected kids home, is that they will feel more comfortable and make a quicker recovery at home. However, the risk of contamination increases by sending kids home, as they may come into contact with others on their journey home. And, kids will always be kids, infected children may not sit still while infected, and spread the deadly virus to their neighborhoods.

And some of the neighborhoods these kids are coming from are in the States – increasing the potential for the H1N1 Swine Flu to spread on both sides of the border. Camp Ramah, a Jewish Education camp affected by the H1N1 Swine Flu outbreak has over 450 children registered, many of them from the United States.

ZOMG!!! SWINE FLU!!!!Image by Amanda-Ruth via Flickr

Although infected kids wouldn’t be as comfortable recovering in isolation at their summer camp, it would be a more prudent method to prevent cross contamination across the region, the province, and even the continent.

Other provinces in Canada are experiencing outbreaks of the deadly H1N1 Swine Flu. Off the west coast, a Vernon, British Columbia army cadet training center has reduced their training schedules, after a cadet was diagnosed with the virus.
Despite restructuring their programs, 27 cadets have become sick since the initial cadet’s infection, showing just how infectious this bug really is.

The summer camps in Ontario remain open, however all kids coming and going into the camps are screened for the virus.

Summer camps in the United States have actually been closed, due to H1N1 fears. The American Lung Association has advised 50 affiliated camps which host children with asthma to close, to prevent Swine Flu infections. And last month, the American-based Muscular Dystrophy Association closed 47 summer camps, also because of concerns over the growing spread of H1N1 Swine Flu in North America.

The World Health Organization (WHO) still has its global pandemic scale set to the highest level – level six --- officially considering the H1N1 Swine Flu a global pandemic. Despite being at the highest level, WHO says the overall severity of what they are calling the “H1N1 Influenza Pandemic” is “moderate,” based on scientific evidence and input from its member countries.

WHO’s website says they are concerned “about current patterns of serious cases and deaths that are occurring primarily among young persons, including the previously healthy and those with pre-existing medical conditions or pregnancy.”

So perhaps the American summer camps which have closed are taking the right approach, which our Canadian summer camps need to follow, as young people – even healthy ones – could severely be affected by this global pandemic.

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