Public health measures, also known as non-pharmaceutical interventions, are basic actions aimed at slowing the community spread of a communicable disease outbreak. In the event of an influenza pandemic, public health measures and antiviral drugs are the only tools available to mitigate the effects of the pandemic during the months before a vaccine becomes available. The Canadian Pandemic Influenza Preparedness: Planning Guidance for the Health Sector (CPIP) outlines how federal, provincial and territorial governments will work together to ensure a coordinated and consistent health sector approach to pandemic influenza preparedness and response.
This article summarizes Canada’s pandemic public health measures strategy, as described in the recently updated CPIP Public Health Measures Annex. The strategy builds on lessons learned during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Key elements of the public health measures strategy include individual measures (e.g. hand hygiene, self-isolation when ill), community-based measures (e.g. school closures, cancellation of mass gatherings), management of cases and close contacts, travel and border-related actions and public education. Factors that influence the effectiveness of public health measures in a pandemic include the pandemic epidemiology, timing of implementation, how the measures are used (i.e. alone or in combination), the scalability and flexibility of public compliance. The CPIP is an evergreen guidance document and the Annex will be updated as new information warrants.