The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC) is activating its Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in response to the outbreak of a novel influenza known as Influenza A (H7N9) in China.
Although there have been no documented cases of the new influenza outside of China, the MOHLTC has decided that it would be prudent to activate the EOC in order to be better prepared in the event that the influenza appears in Ontario.
Currently, the World Health Organization has reported 60 cases of Influenza A (H7N9) in China; 13 of those cases have died. To date, cases have been documented in 4 Chinese provinces and 2 municipalities. This strain of influenza normally circulates among birds but has been transmitted to humans rarely after exposure to infected poultry. It is not yet known whether any of the Chinese cases are a result of human-to-human transmission, or if they are all a result of exposures to infected birds.
The MOHLTC held a Health Sector Partners teleconference on April 15 to update the sector on the situation and on MOHLTC activities and plans. OPSEU participated in the teleconference and will take part in another teleconference scheduled for next week.
To date, the MOHLTC has released and widely distributed two key documents:
- An April 13, 2013 memo – Health Sector Partners Re Influenza A(H7N9) Virus in China This memo contains links to websites such as the World Health Organization and the Public Health Agency of Canada that provide additional information.
- An April 12, 2013 document – Influenza A(H7N9) Guidance for Health Workers and Health Sector Employers This document provides Case Definitions, Occupational Health and Safety and Infection Prevention and Control guidance as well as information about assessment, testing and treatment.
In addition to the documents circulated by the MOHLTC, it has opened its Health Care Provider Hotline at 1-866-212-2272.
OPSEU advises health care sector Joint Health & Safety Committees (JHSC) to meet soon to review the guidance documents from the MOHLTC. Although there are no cases outside of China at this time, it would be advisable for Committees to review the following:
- their facility/employer emergency plans or pandemic plans to ensure that they are current and can be implemented if necessary
- staff training records on infection prevention and control to ensure training is up-to-date
- respirator fit-testing records for workers to ensure fit-testing has been done within the past two years
- availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, gowns, N95 respirators, eye protection
As new information is received, OPSEU will post on the Health Care Division web page and the HCDC Health and Safety page. If you have questions or concerns, please direct them to OPSEU’s Health & Safety Unit at Head Office.