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Ontario Unprepared To Deal With Flu Pandemic

The Chief Medical Officer of Ontario has announced that it will be difficult for the authorities to contain a major infectious disease outbreak. Many of Ontario's public health units do not have a medical officer working on a full time basis,// and provincial laboratories are both understaffed and operate with outdated equipment. The Province may be incapable of dealing with a major outbreak of a disease as a result of these factors, according to Dr. Sheela Basrur.

These comments come on the backdrop of Turkey combating the H5N1 strain virus. The public health lab system of the province has only one medical microbiologist who is working on a full time basis, while a minimum of six is required. The emergency plan of the province is inclusive of stockpiling of 12.4 million doses of Tamiflu. A modern laboratory estimated at $ 40 million is planned at the Medical and Related Sciences (MaRS) complex.

More microbiologists are also planned to be recruited. The outbreak of rubella in Oxford County during the spring of 2005 has served to awaken the authorities that the health facilities need to be improved. A flu pandemic in Ontario may result in as many as 65,000 hospitalizations and 19,700 deaths. This will result in stretching the existing medical facilities to breaking point. The bird flu which was considered an Asian problem has shown signs of penetrating Europe, as witnessed in the case of Turkey, and with domestic birds in Eastern Europe also having contracted the disease.

The disease will become far more deadly after it mutates, and attains the capability of being transmitted from one human being to another. A global pandemic of the disease may well result in several million causalities. The flu pandemic may also result in secondary pneumonias breaking out. The lab system of Ontario which tracks as many as four million tests annually does not even have a computer based record-keeping system.

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