SASKATOON – Less than a week after reports surfaced of an H1N1 outbreak at a potash camp near Bethune, Sask., one vaccine expert isn’t overly concerned. Dr. Andrew Potter said H1N1, often referred to as swine flu, is one of the strains circulating this flu season.
As many as five people were quarantined and at least two were sent to hospital last week after H1N1 surfaced at the K+S Potash legacy camp.
“I have never worked in a potash mine, but I have in my mind that this is a fairly cramped environment,” said Potter, the CEO of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization – International Vaccine Centre.
READ MORE: H1N1 outbreak in camp at Sask. potash mine
Compared to other typical strains of the flu virus, Potter said people shouldn’t be especially worried about H1N1.
“All of them vary in the severity of the disease [and] how easily they’re transmitted,” Potter said.
The current flu vaccine is designed to combat H1N1, among other strains.
H1N1 made headlines during the 2009-10 flu season when the World Health Organization (WHO) labelled the virus a “pandemic.” It was unique because its victims were not only seniors and infants, but also young adults with otherwise healthy immune systems.
Compared to the avian flu, also known as bird flu, H1N1 may be more common, but nowhere near as deadly. Avian flu has a mortality rate of about 60 per cent, according to WHO.
“It’s when you get that combination of things … then, you’ve got to worry,” Potter said, referring to the combination of viruses contributing to the deadly Spanish Flu of 1918.
Flu season has gotten off to a late start in Saskatchewan, with 49 confirmed influenza cases so far, compared to 1,452 last season and 1,590 the season before, according to Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health.
The Saskatoon Health Region has similar findings, with 21 confirmed cases of influenza in 2015-16 compared to 563 last season and 307 one season earlier.
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