Spike in cases of swine flu

The first case of swine flu has been reported in Toronto. The city’s first case was reported this afternoon by Dr. David Williams, the acting chief medical officer of health. Ontario now has eight cases of swine flu. The other seven cases are throughout the 905 region. Nationally the number of confirmed swine flu cases climbed to 28 today as Alberta and Nova Scotia announced eight new cases of the virus, although all are said to be mild. The four new cases in Nova Scotia are related to an original cluster of four cases among students at a private boarding school in Windsor. In Alberta, medical health officer Dr. Andre Corriveau says the cases in the province involve young adults from Calgary who recently returned from a trip to Mexico. They have been advised to stay home for a week. In Nova Scotia, the four students who originally came down with the virus have fully recovered and returned to classes at King’s-Edgehill School. The four original cases in Nova Scotia involved students who returned from a trip to Mexico earlier this month. Health officials say people shouldn’t panic over the new cases and are suggesting everyone should continue with their regular activities. The World Health Organization gave the swine flu a new name today as it announced there are now 236 confirmed cases of the new virus around the globe. "Rather than calling this swine flu … we’re going to stick with the technical scientific name H1N1 influenza A," WHO spokesman Dick Thompson told reporters in Geneva today. Thompson said the flu name change comes after the agriculture industry and the U.N. food agency expressed concerns that the term "swine flu" was misleading consumers and needlessly causing countries to order the slaughter of pigs even though experts have insisted the swine flu is not spread by eating pork. The United States did not suggest it would change the name of the virus. "What we call this matters much less than what we do," Dr. Richard Besser, acting director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at a press conference in Atlanta today. "We continue to be very aggressive in our approach and we’re going to continue to do that until the situation tells us that we no longer need to do so. There is no one action that is going to stop this. There is no silver bullet, but all of the efforts – the efforts of governments, the efforts of communities, the efforts of individuals will help to reduce the impact on people’s health." The WHO raised the global alert for swine flu to phase five – the second highest level – yesterday, stating they believe a pandemic is evident. "Phase five holds steady and there is no evidence to suggest a move to phase six," Dr. Keiji Fukuda, assistant director at the WHO said in a teleconference call from Geneva. "The situation continues to evolve." This is to be expected as infectious disease experts make their way through the thousands of samples collected from ill Mexicans, Fukuda said. At this point, the WHO does not feel travel restrictions will slow down movement of the virus. But if someone is feeling ill they should "strongly consider delaying that travel." As the northern hemisphere comes to the end of the flu season, it is the beginning of the flu season for the countries in the southern hemispheres. Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche donated 5 million treatment courses of their antiviral drug Tamiflu in 2005/2006 to the WHO and a portion of that stockpile is being sent to Mexico and other developing countries. In the U.S. six patients have been hospitalized, including the baby from Texas who died from the flu. "Unfortunately, I do expect that there will be more deaths," Besser said. Besser said it is a "good thing" the WHO raised its pandemic threat level to 5, although it will not change what the U.S. is already doing to deal with the outbreak. "It’s really a wake-up call to the rest of the global community," he said. "It’s time to pull out your pandemic plan." Besser said health authorities are currently growing a seed strain of the virus that could be used in a vaccine but nothing has been distributed to manufacturers yet. He also said pharmaceutical companies would finish producing seasonal flu vaccines before switching over to manufacturing a vaccine for the H1NI virus if there was one available by that time. Mexican President Felipe Calderon has urged his fellow citizens to stay at home during the upcoming public holidays from Friday to May 5. "I would urge you all, without exception, that during the public holidays we are about to have. . . to remain at home with your family; because there is no safer place for avoiding swine flu virus contagion than your own homes," Calderon said in a speech yesterday. A meeting between the Canadian Parliament and the Senate of Mexico that was supposed to have taken place in Ottawa and St. John, N.B. next week has been cancelled because of the swine influenza. "The Congress of Mexico and the Parliament of Canada note the excellent bilateral cooperation that exists between the health authorities of both of our countries in view of the human swine influenza control challenge, which poses a risk to our citizens," they said in a joint statement Thursday. "We are witness to the committed effort by both countries to address this health threat. We recognize the importance of implementing coordinated actions in the struggle against pandemics and epidemics, and plan to add this as a theme for our next interparliamentary agenda." -With files from Torstar News Service


Tottenham couple wins $100G in 6/49 draw

Marian and John Milne of Tottenham won $102,351 from the April 22 LOTTO 6/49. "We could not believe it when we realized we won and how much we had won," the pair excitedly said of their second-prize win. "We are so happy and excited!" The pair has no immediate plans for the windfall. A past member of Blackhorse Village Players, John Milne has appeared before audiences with the theatre troop a number of times. He is also well-known as the beloved Tottenham Mall Santa with the heavy Scottish accent. The winning ticket was purchased at Tottenham Pharmasave located in the Tottenham Mall. OLG is a provincial agency responsible for province-wide lottery games and gaming facilities. Since 1975, OLG lotteries, casinos, slots, and resort casinos have generated more than $23 billion for the benefit of the Province of Ontario. Gaming proceeds support Ontario’s hospitals, amateur sport, recreational and cultural activities, communities, provincial priority programs such as health care and education, and local and provincial charities and non-profit organizations through the Ontario Trillium Foundation.


Farmer charged in animal neglect case

Animal neglect charges have been laid against a Tottenham-area man after 28 head of cattle were found dead on his farm in March. In total, 12 charges were laid against the farmer today (May 13), including failing to provide adequate food, water, medical attention, sanitation, ventilation and failing to provide for the general welfare of an animal. A tip from the public March 10 led animal cruelty investigators to the 7th Line beef farm, east of Tottenham Road, where they found the dead animals. At that time, investigators also seized 24 additional head of cattle deemed by a veterinarian to be living under distress. A dog was also removed from the farm and was euthanized because of a medical condition. The charges were laid under Ontario’s new animal welfare laws. If convicted, each count carry a maximum fine of $60,000 and a sentence of up to two years in jail, said OSPCA spokesperson Kristin Williams. The courts can also apply other penalties, such as a lifetime ban on animal ownership. The Alliston and District Humane Society and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals conducted the investigation. The dead cattle were buried on the farm under the direction of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.


Provincial agency to handle Adjala-Tos water

Adjala-Tosorontio is contracting out the operation of its municipal water system to the province. Effective last Monday (May 4), the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) is responsible for operation and maintenance of the township’s water system. Discussions over the matter were conducted in camera in February, before the township passed a bylaw to enter into an agreement with OCWA. The township announced details of the agreement at the council meeting Monday. Deputy Mayor Doug Little said the agreement would save the township money, which would be used to offset water costs. He said the issue was handled in camera because it dealt with municipal personnel issues. The report from Wargel outlined that the decision would impact four fulltime municipal employees and a contract worker. Users should notice no difference to their service, according to council. "It is going to be status quo as far as we can see now. The only difference is we are going to see some water savings," he said. The three-year contract with OCWA will cost the township a fixed amount of $375,200 annually, plus CPI adjustments. A memorandum from director of public works Eric Wargel reported savings to the municipality would be over $100,000 per year. In addition to the savings, the township would have access to more resources than a municipality the size of Adjala-Tosorontio could afford on its own. Little said OCWA’s policies are at least as stringent as those of the municipalities, and that the agreement would also save the township on liability. Two of the municipal employees have been retained by the township and have been assigned other duties. The rest have been offered positions at OCWA, according to the report. During regular business hours, residents can still contact the township offices at 705-434-5055 with questions. The after-hours emergency contact is now 1-800-461-9675. OCWA already had a working relationship with township, as it handled the wastewater system in Everett. The agency also operates the water systems in other surrounding townships, including Essa and Springwater and was the agency that provided bridge financing for the Georgian Bay Water Pipeline that serves New Tecumseth.


Firefighters honoured

Staff photo: Michael Gennings Dave McKee, a captain with the Clearview Fire Department, was recognized for 15 years of service last Monday night at Clearview Township council. Presenting McKee with a certificate is Mayor Ken Ferguson (left) and Chief Dave Carruthers. Firefighter Rob LeBlond was recognized for five years of service and firefighter Rick Graham for 10 years. The two men were absent for the certificate presentation.


Local students reading into child literacy

There’s a group of students at Georgian Bay Secondary School  (GBSS) with a grassroots approach to childhood literacy. The Born to Read club at GBSS works in conjunction with Grey Bruce Children’s Service (GBCS) to purchase and hand out quality, Canadian, children’s literature to local families. Amy Teed-Acres is a teacher at GBSS and has taken the role of supervisor for the group. She leads over 50 students in the initiative. Most of their time is spent fundraising to purchase the books to be given out.  They add the books purchased to a literacy package, which includes the book and a letter from the students explaining the benefits of early literacy and reading to children. The packages are later given out to families through GBCS. "I feel very strongly, as do the students involved, that every child deserves to have the chance to be exposed to great literature," said Teed-Acres. "To have it and hold it in their hands regardless of a family’s socio-economic circumstances." The program was born after Teed-Acres, a mother of young children, herself, went to pay for some books she was buying for her girls. She wondered as she proceeded to the checkout how many families never visit a bookstore or library and how many kids then go to school already "behind" in terms of reading skills. "I then wondered if there was a way to get brand new books into the hands of kids and families," she said. "Even if one child begins to read or one parent starts to read to or with their child because of our program, then it’s worthwhile." Jennifer Sells, program manager at Keystone Child and Youth Services, sees first hand the benefits of the Born to Read initiative. Keystone has mutual aid programs for parents of preschool aged children and has given out the literacy packages prepared by the students. She said that there are many families who cannot afford to buy books and worry about borrowing books from libraries. "Books in the home are a really great stimulus for a child," said Sells. "It’s a wonderful way of getting their children to be good readers." Teed-Acres believes that literacy rates and skills are cyclical, that the importance of literacy taught at a young age, eventually yields parents who read to and with their own children because of their positive experience. Anyone can adopt a book to donate to a family. Contact Amy Teed-Acres at GBSS at 519-538-1680.