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On April 23, 2009, I was selected by a committee of the Ontario legislature to become this province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, a position I took up on June 15. Prior to my appointment, I was serving as the Director General of the Centre for Immunization and Respiratory Infectious Diseases at the Public Health Agency of Canada, and my attention had begun to focus on a health issue that was to dominate the world’s headlines for the next several months.In mid-March, Mexican authorities started reporting cases of what appeared to be a new strain of influenza. By mid-April, alarm bells were ringing in public health agencies around the world. The first case of a novel influenza A (H1N1) outside Mexico was confirmed in the United States on April 15, with another one reported two days later. On April 26, the first cases were reported in Canada. On April 28, Ontario reported its first four cases. By then, there were more than 100 cases of the new disease in seven countries around the world, and seven people had died.
The H1N1 flu has been by far the biggest health story of the past few years, and one of the biggest news stories of any kind. People have become ill. People have died. Like every other public health official in the world, I have lived and breathed the H1N1 flu for the past five months. In public health, when you are dealing with an infectious disease, and particularly a pandemic, communication is absolutely critical. There is a fine line that must be drawn between raising awareness and causing fear and, with the H1N1 flu, awareness is important and fear is unnecessary. That is why I decided the time was right to release this interim report.
We are heading into another flu season, and H1N1 flu will be a part of that season. This report tells, in brief, the story of the H1N1 flu to date here in Ontario and around the world. It seeks to inform Ontarians about the disease. And while nobody knows for certain the extent to which this flu virus will re-emerge over the next few months, this report is intended to reassure the people of Ontario that we are ready. The coming flu season will be a different flu season – that much is certain. But there are precautions that each of us can take that will make a big difference. A vaccine has been developed and it will be available to everyone who needs and wants it.
We are ready.
Dr. Arlene King
Chief Medical Officer of Health
Province of Ontario
Download the attached document for the rest of Dr. King’s full report.
Chief MOH Report on H1N1- September 2009 (PDF) 3.69 MB
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