Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, today announced an investment by the Government of Canada of $135 million for new construction and the renovation of health services infrastructure in First Nations communities across Canada.
Construction of 16 nursing stations and health clinics in First Nations communities is underway across Canada, thanks to $135 million in federal funding, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Tuesday.
The money, announced in the federal budget, is for building and renovating nursing stations and clinics in First Nations communities, Aglukkaq said in Winnipeg.
About 16 of the approximately 40 new construction projects are underway, with completion expected by March 2011. Another 230 or so projects are renovations to existing health services infrastructure, the government said in a release.
Aglukkaq was unable to explain specifically how the new funds will help in the fight against the H1N1 swine flu virus this fall.
She also responded to an editorial in Monday's Canadian Medical Association Journal that criticized the federal government's vaccine strategy for being too slow to help those at high risk, compared to licensing approaches in other countries.
"Canada is seen as world leaders in responding to a pandemic," Aglukkaq told a news conference.
"Of course, there's always ways to improve how we respond, and we'll continue to do that. But as we got to the fall, the vaccine will be available, and every Canadian who wants to be vaccinated will be able to be vaccinated. Again, that's very different from other countries."
Canada has also assisted the World Health Organization, Pan American Health Organization and Mexico and the U.S. in developing their pandemic plans, she said.
H1N1 versus seasonal flu
Also on Tuesday, U.S. researchers said the H1N1 swine flu seems unlikely to mix with regular seasonal flu viruses, reducing the likelihood it will mutate into a more dangerous strain.
The findings underscore the need for people to be vaccinated against H1N1, said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The study involved ferrets.
When the lab animals were infected with 2009 H1N1 virus, plus either the seasonal H1N1 virus or seasonal H3N2 virus, both viruses made them sick. But only the H1N1 pandemic virus spread to other ferrets, Daniel Perez of the University of Maryland and his colleagues found.
The pandemic virus was found deeper in the ferrets' respiratory system, including the lungs, while seasonal flu strains stayed in the nasal passages. Doctors have reported similar findings for swine flu patients.
Perez's team posted the findings on PLoS Currents: Influenza, a website for rapid communication of new scientific data on flu.
On Monday, Aglukkaq said First Nations communities will be a high priority when the government decides who should receive the swine flu vaccine first.
The government has ordered more than 50 million doses of pandemic vaccine, when it is available, for all Canadians who wish to be immunized.
But since the whole order will not be ready at once, health officials are meeting in Winnipeg this week to decide which groups will be first in line.
Health-care workers and pregnant women are also likely to be high on the list, federal health officials have said.
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