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No panic over flu pandemic

It’s business as usual at local schools as the H1N1 flu reached another 89 Albertans Tuesday and reached pandemic levels globally last week.

It’s business as usual at local schools as the H1N1 flu reached another 89 Albertans Tuesday and reached pandemic levels globally last week.

As of Tuesday the province had 354 confirmed cases of the flu strain with 89 new cases reported since Monday, 55 of which were in the Edmonton region.

The number of new cases is often elevated early in the week as a result of weekend backlogs getting cleared, said Alberta Health and Wellness spokesman Howard May.

Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) raised its alert to its highest level, Phase 6, officially declaring the H1N1 or swine flu a global pandemic. This phase means the illness has spread through human-to-human contact into at least two countries in one WHO region, as well as at least one other country in a different WHO region.

“The Phase 6 designation is not indicative of how severe this disease is. It is a measure of where and how widespread the new virus has gone around the world. The level of risk to the general public remains low,” said Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Andre Corriveau.

The heightened alert level is no surprise given how the virus has been spreading around the world, he said. Alberta is working closely with other provinces and territories and the Public Health Agency of Canada to monitor H1N1 influenza activity.

There have been no reported cases of the H1N1 flu in St. Albert schools. Officials are continuing to take their lead from Alberta Health Services and Alberta Education.

“We want to be thoroughly prepared in case it ever morphed into something, but right now it is a form of the flu and I don’t sense panic,” said Barry Wowk, superintendent of the Protestant school district.

Health officials warn that the flu strain may surge once again by fall, but vaccines are in the works and should be ready for the next flu shot season.

Overall, parents don’t seem overly concerned, said Kim Lynch-Staunton, spokesperson for Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools.

“We’ve received no out-of-the-ordinary kinds of concerns from parents at all. I guess that’s an indication that people may not be feeling that sense of panic,” she said.

“It’s business as usual.”

That’s also the case within Sturgeon School Division. On May 14 the division lifted a cancellation of out-of-country field trips.

“I have not had any concerns brought to my attention at all,” said superintendent Michèle Dick.

As of Monday, there were 35,928 H1N1 flu cases including 163 deaths in 76 countries, the WHO reported.