Pig flu on the wing

As expected, the Yukon has been hit with its first case of the H1N1 influenza -- commonly known as swine flu. The flu was contracted by an adult Yukon female who had recently travelled in Mexico.

As expected, the Yukon has been hit with its first case of the H1N1 influenza—commonly known as swine flu.

The flu was contracted by an adult Yukon female who had recently travelled in Mexico.

Infected with a mild case, she has already recovered and did not require hospitalization.

The H1N1 flu is “looking more and more like just another influenza,” said Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health.

Regular flus, even mild ones, can occasionally result in complications or death, noted Hanley.

However, come flu season, H1N1 may join forces with seasonal flus and raise the total number of flu infections.

On Saturday, Canada became the third country to report a death resulting from an H1N1 infection.

The H1N1 influenza has killed 56 in Mexico, three in the US and one each in Canada and Costa Rica. The US, Canadian and Costa Rican victims all had prior medical conditions.

Globally, 5,241 people have been infected with H1N1.

Officials are still trying to pinpoint why the Mexican death toll is disproportionately high.

“Is it having a different impact in Mexico than here, or is it that we haven’t counted all the mild cases in Mexico?” said Hanley.

The World Health Organization is not labeling the outbreak a pandemic, because it is not spreading heavily outside North America.

Even if it does become a pandemic, it will not necessarily bring calamitous death rates.

“It will still remain a mild illness, (pandemic) just means it’s easily transmitted,” said Hanley.

The flu’s inapt swine moniker has dealt a “devastating” blow to the Canadian pork industry, said Jurgen Preugschas, chair of the Canadian Pork Council, to Chinese media outlet Xinhua.

Contracting the flu has nothing to with eating pork products.

Pigs—and birds—are susceptible to contracting H1N1 from humans.

However, even if bacon taken from an infected pig is eaten, it cannot spread H1N1.

Ten days ago, Egypt announced that it would cull its entire pig population in a far-fetched bid to insulate the country from the flu.

“A totally over-the-top reaction, and obviously a political decision not guided by any public health rationale,” said Hanley.

In Afghanistan, spooked officials at the Kabul Zoo have placed the country’s only pig under quarantine.

Throughout Europe, countries have been aggressively using antiviral drugs to stem the spread of the virus.

Overuse of antivirals can promote drug-resistant strains of the flu, as well as exposing patients to unknown side-effects of the medication.

In 1976, a strain of the H1N1 virus struck the United States, prompting an ambitious wave of immunizations, including the public vaccination of US president Gerald Ford.

Only one American died from the virus, but 25 died from the vaccine’s side-effects.

Any Yukoner with flu-like symptoms should “stay home, self-isolate” and rest until their symptoms subside, said Hanley.

If symptoms don’t subside after a week, Yukoners are advised to call a health care provider or 811, the Yukon Health Line.

Contact Tristin Hopper at

tristinh@yukon-news.com