Canadian report calls for improved flu surveillance

Two new reports suggest that Canada’s health agencies need to improve their flu surveillance capabilities, evaluate their stockpile management system and do a better job of communicating pandemic news to the public.

The reviews were released by the Public Health Agency of Canada and a Canadian Senate committee, according to TheStar.com.

The Senate committee report examined the government response to the H1N1 outbreak and came up with 18 recommended ways that the country could be better prepared.

The Public Health Agency of Canada identified 34 ways the government could be better prepared, but also said Canada’s overall response to H1N1 was effective.

“We had a novel virus that was identified for the first time ever and within six months we had a mass vaccination program for Canadians,” Gregory Taylor, director general of the office of public health practice at the Public Health Agency of Canada, told TheStar.com. “But clearly nothing is perfect and there are lots of areas we can do better in."

The report maintained that Canada needed to strengthen its capacity to prepare for a pandemic outbreak. This includes hiring more specialists, building better systems and investing in better technology.

Among the 18 recommendations provided by the senate committee, putting a backup vaccine supplier in place was among the most important. The review also called for the funding for pandemic preparedness to be reviewed in the 2011 federal budget.

“Canada managed very well compared with other countries,” Senator Kelvin Ogilvie, deputy chair of the committee, said, according to TheStar.com. “I was impressed with how far we have come in national preparedness since SARS. We had a remarkable degree of cooperation across national, provincial and municipal jurisdictions.”