Historically pandemic flu will arise every eleven to forty-four years or every few decades and can occur at any time of the year. Because a pandemic flu is a new virus, most people will have little or no immunity to infection allowing it to spread easily from person to person and vaccines will not yet be created to protect a population from the virus. The Seasonal flu in comparison occurs every year, usually in winter months and annual vaccines and antiviral medications are readily available to prevent infection.

COVID-19 is a novel (new) virus that has spread quickly across the globe, and is now affecting Canada. It spreads through droplets, such as those produced when coughing or sneezing, and through mucosal surfaces such as the eyes, nose and mouth. The national goal is to prevent the spread and flatten the curve of cases.

In most patients, COVID-19 produces a mild illness similar to that of a cold. The common symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and headache. In a small amount of people, it can create a severe infection that may require people to have an oxygen mask or in some cases be on a life support machine. The patients at highest risk for severe infections are persons over 60 and those with significant heart or lung problems. It is extremely important that we protect our Elders through this pandemic, as they are most vulnerable and at risk to experience complications. Despite the majority of young and healthy people having a minor infection, they can easily spread COVID-19 to other people, including Elders; so it is imperative that everyone takes infection control seriously and works together to flatten the curve and prevent the spread through measures such as social distancing.

The best methods of preventing spread to and within Wabaseemoong are to limit unnecessary travel outside of the community, limit social gatherings, promote social distancing, and hygiene methods such as washing hands regularly, coughing/sneezing into an arm, cleaning common surfaces frequently and wearing a mask if any respiratory symptoms are present. We can also reduce the risk of spreading the infection by avoiding direct contact with others, common surfaces and shared objects as the virus can live on surfaces for extended periods of time.

We are now beginning to see cases within Canada and confirmed local cases in Northwestern Ontario and Manitoba.

Throughout this pandemic it is essential that we continue be mindful of everyone’s Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual health and find innovative ways to support them in all domains of wellness as we work together over the coming weeks and months.

Our goal is to promote health and prevent the spread COVID-19 to continue to foster health for many generations to come. COVID-19 has and will have great impact on our nation, and it is important to act now and be prepared together as a community.