OTTAWA (AFP) — Canada has reported 533 newly confirmed swine flu cases, including a spike in infections in an indigenous Inuit Arctic region, bringing the total cases close to 3,000.
Canada's Public Health Agency published without comment Wednesday its new total of 2,978 confirmed cases of the A(H1N1) virus, which include 71 new cases in Nunavut, raising the number in the autonomous northern territory to 96.
No official indication by Canadian officials was given as to why the surge occured in the indigenous communities, but the Inuit cases are being watched closely by the World Health Organization.
WHO assistant director-general Keiji Fukuda said "a disproportionate number of serious cases is occurring" in Inuit communities, and warned that past pandemics had hit Inuit populations "very severely."
Concern has also swelled in Native American communities in Manitoba province, where 26 people, about half of them Native Americans, have been placed on artificial respirators with serious lung problems.
David Harper, chief of the American Indian community in Garden Hill, said just one case of swine flu has been confirmed in the community, but in local media reports he has taken authorities to task for failing to grasp the seriousness of the situation.
To date four people with swine flu have died in Canada, and 138 others have required hospitalization.
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