Health Minister launches one-stop pandemic influenza web site and new information resources for Canadians

Health Minister Tony Clement today launched a new web-based resource on pandemic influenza that will give Canadians access to a one-stop source of information on pandemic influenza and Canada’s preparedness. The Minister also unveiled public information materials to be distributed to doctors and pharmacists across the country to assist them in answering questions from the their patients and clients on pandemic influenza.

The web site brings together information from across the Government of Canada’s departments and agencies, providing a central web site for information on Canada’s pandemic influenza plan and other public health measures to protect Canadians.

“The potential for an influenza pandemic is an important public health issue for all Canadians” said Minister Clement. “The effectiveness of our response will depend in part on our ability to communicate relevant information to Canadians, not just during a pandemic, but in advance of an outbreak.”

The information materials are designed to answer questions Canadians may ha on the risk to themselves and their families and provide background information on seasonal influenza, avian influenza and pandemic influenza. The tools will be distributed to health professionals through the Canadian Medical Association and Canadian Pharmacists Association, reaching approximately 63,000 health care professionals.

“The Canadian Medical Association is very pleased to be working together with the Public Health Agency of Canada to bring this information to Canadians,” said Dr. Ruth Collins-Nakai, President of the Canadian Medical Association. “The adoption of simple flu prevention measures coupled with a better understanding of influenza will go a long way in preparing Canada for an influenza pandemic.”

“Often pharmacists are the first line of contact that many people have with the health care system,” said Dr. Jeff Poston, Executive Director, Canadian Pharmacists Association. “Their inclusion in planning and training for a pandemic can only strengthen our response to meet the public’s need.”

The new web site is part of the government’s commitment to keeping Canadians informed of preparations for pandemic influenza, including what individuals can do to protect themselves.

“In addition to the many ways we are preparing for pandemic influenza, providing Canadians with reliable, relevant and up-to-date information is an essential element,” said Minister Clement. “Our strategy is to coordinate communication among governments, but also across the country with the various public health partners and the health professionals on the front lines.”

As well as information on the Government of Canada’s preparedness and response plans, the web site includes information to help people understand what pandemic influenza is and how it differs from avian flu, and the seasonal flu that commonly circulates through fall and winter months. It also provides tips for self protection and preventing the spread of the virus. The public information materials cover similar information in a package designed to assist health care professionals in answering questions from their patients and clients on pandemic influenza.

A pandemic can occur when a new influenza virus emerges against which people have little or no immunity. There is no influenza pandemic at this time anywhere in the world, but scientists agree a global outbreak is inevitable.