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The World Health Organisation on Tuesday warned that swine flu was causing unusually serious levels of infection among indigenous people in Canada, as it geared up to formally announce a global pandemic.
Keiji Fukuda, the agency's assistant director-general, said a "larger number than expected" of young indigenous people was being hospitalised, in a trend that raised the prospect that the virus may have a more severe impact on some groups of people, similar to the experience in Mexico.
The authorities in Manitoba in Canada confirmed they had brought in extra ventilators and specialists to study the disease as they confirmed a "surge" in people requiring intensive care. They confirmed more than 40 H1N1 cases to date, the majority among those of aboriginal descent. The trend could indicate a genetic susceptibility of indigenous people, who have been badly affected by past flu pandemics, as well as their relative economic and social deprivation.