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Winnipeg lab gets Mexican samples

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WINNIPEG — The Canadian government has accepted a plea from Mexico to help with swine flu testing at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

Testing of 200 specimens from Mexican patients with severe respiratory illness is underway at the laboratory, after a shipment of samples arrived by plane in Winnipeg on Tuesday night.

The transfer was organized by a number of departments including the Public Health Agency of Canada, Foreign Affairs Canada, Public Safety, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Border Services Agency.

The National Microbiology Laboratory is Canada’s top public health infectious disease lab, and is in charge of identifying, controlling and preventing infectious diseases.

It is now operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with provincial and territorial labs around the country asked to send any unidentifiable influenza viruses and samples from patients with severe respiratory illnesses to the laboratory.

Along with the testing in Winnipeg, two Canadian epidemiologists have been sent to Mexico to help officials there investigate the swine flu outbreak.

Canadians have been asked by the government to postpone all non-essential travel to the country at the heart of the crisis, and quarantine officers are stationed at every airport in
Canada to check out ill passengers on any direct flights arriving from Mexico.

Canadians looking for the latest information on swine flu can visit www.phac-aspc.gc.ca or call 1-800-454-8302.

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