'Swine flu' parties not a good idea, Canadian officials say

Health authorities are cautioning Canadians not to hold or attend "swine flu" parties.

Social networking Web sites have mentioned such sick get-togethers as a way for people to expose themselves or their children to the H1N1 virus.

In that way, they believe the current mild strain of the disease will make them immune if the illness turns more deadly in the fall.

This is a "very dangerous practice," said Dr. David Butler-Jones, head of the Public Health Agency of Canada.

There is no way to predict which child might become seriously ill or die if exposed in such a way to the virus, he said.

The agency said there have been 7,983 laboratory confirmed cases of the flu virus across Canada with 25 deaths.

There remains "a lot of uncertainty" about whether things will worsen in the fall — the traditional time for flu outbreaks, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said.

The vast majority of swine flu cases in Canada have been mild with few people requiring hospital treatment, Butler-Jones said.

Revelers turn out to ring in 142nd birthday

Canada marked its "first-of-July" birthday celebrations on Wednesday with outdoor parties and fireworks across the land.

The country had its 142nd birthday on Canada Day with citizens putting aside the economic blues for a rocking national red-and-white bash on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

"Together we have faced a challenging year," Prime Minister Stephen Harper told tens of thousands of people who surrounded the huge stage and packed the streets below.

Canadians are "a strong and resilient" people poised for better times ahead, he said to the cheering crowd waving red-and-white Maple Leaf flags.

"We will soon have a chance to showcase Canada to the world," Harper said, referring to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games to be held in Vancouver-Whistler.

News in brief

• The Ontario government has indicated it won't intervene to order striking civic workers back to their jobs in Toronto and Windsor. Toronto's two-week-old strike has led to the opening of 19 emergency dump sites to handle household garbage. The city council in Windsor won't give in to the union's demands for an arbitrated settlement as the strike there is into its 12th week.

• Financial analysts believe Canada's jobless rate will hit 10 percent before the economy stabilizes early next year. The country has lost 363,000 net jobs since October as the unemployment rate climbed to 8.4 percent from about 6 percent. The contraction of the gross domestic product so far has made the economic downturn worse than in the early 1990s but not as bad as the severe recession of 1981-82.

• They have a license to print money but executives of the Royal Canadian Mint will be denied further bonuses by the government after an audit suggested a massive heist could have occurred there. The Mounties have been called into the case of the missing gold bullion worth $13.2 million (U.S.). Mint officials say it is "not clear at this stage" if any physical gold is missing from the inventory.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar was lower on Friday at 86.08 cents U.S., while the U.S. currency advanced to $1.1617 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate remains at 0.25 percent, and the prime lending rate is 2.25 percent.

Stock markets were lower for the past week, with Toronto's composite index at 10,267 points on Friday and the TSX Venture index at 1,092 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 5, 19, 26, 29 and 31; bonus 28. (June 27) 5, 15, 28, 31, 32 and 45; bonus 11. Super 7: (June 26) 1, 11, 12, 24, 26, 27 and 28; bonus 22.

Regional briefs

• British Columbia's controversial "carbon tax" marked its first anniversary on July 1 with a 50 percent increase. That added about a penny to the price of a liter of gas. The tax is now 3.1 cents U.S. a liter (about 11.5 cents a U.S. gallon) for gasoline and other fossil fuels. It's the first escalating carbon tax in Canada aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions by one-third by 2020.

• The Nova Scotia government has so far rejected a suggestion by restaurant owners to exclude waiters and bartenders from further minimum wage hikes. Businesses say the higher wages drive up meal prices and make it harder to hire for nontipping positions such as in the kitchen. The province's minimum wage increased to $7.40 U.S. ($8.60 Canadian) an hour in April and will go to $8.30 U.S. ($9.65 Canadian) hourly in October 2010.

• All she could probably say was "D'oh" after a North Vancouver woman was arrested at the U.S. border with 100,000 ecstasy pills shaped like Homer Simpson and the Transformers. The drugs, worth $1 million, were found in a hidden compartment in a car. Krysta Edwards, 23, was being held in jail for drug smuggling.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.

'Swine flu' parties not a good idea, Canadian officials say 07/04/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 4, 2009 4:39pm]

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