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November 25, 2005
Toronto Pandemic Influenza Plan released
Today, Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, released the
Toronto Pandemic Influenza Plan and issued recommendations for action by the
federal and provincial governments and the City of Toronto.

“This plan is a work in progress and while we have achieved improved readiness
for a possible pandemic, there is much more work to do. You could say we are
planning for the worst case scenario while hoping for - and working toward -
the best possible outcome,” said Dr. McKeown.

The plan has two main objectives: to reduce illness and death and to minimize
social disruption in the event of a pandemic. Dr. McKeown said the timing and
severity of the next influenza pandemic cannot be predicted. It will occur when
a new strain of flu virus appears which can be transmitted from person to
person and for which there is little or no immunity in the human population.

The recommendations for action include a request to the federal and provincial
governments to review their existing plans and give further consideration to
the wearing of masks in situations where potential exposure to infected
individuals is unavoidable.

A number of recommendations are directed at the Ministry of Health and
Long-Term Care, requesting it to address: the need to build surge capacity in
all components of the health care system; the needs of vulnerable populations
during a pandemic; the barriers to preparing for a pandemic that face key
service providers such as the funeral/crematoria sector and self-employed
health care providers; the criteria for decision-making on key public health
measures such as school closures; and the need for detailed distribution
strategies for vaccine and anti-viral medications.

A number of recommendations are addressed to the City of Toronto, including
that all departments, agencies, boards and commissions prepare service
continuity plans for pandemic influenza by July, 2006.

Dr. McKeown also released a report of preliminary research into the SARS
outbreak showing that quarantine measures were effective in reducing disease
transmission by almost half for closest community contacts, mainly household
members. Because influenza is highly infectious with a very short incubation
period, quarantine would not be used as a control measure during a pandemic,
except for possible limited use in the earliest stage.

The Pandemic Influenza Plan, along with recommendations for action and the SARS
study, will be presented to the Board of Health at its monthly meeting on
Monday, November 28.

Media contact:

Gil Hardy
Toronto Public Health



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