06/18/2012 03:37 EDT | Updated 08/18/2012 05:12 EDT

David Butler-Jones, Canada's chief public health officer, recovering from stroke

TORONTO - Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones, is recovering from a stroke.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said Monday that Butler-Jones experienced the stroke in early May and has since returned to work.

In an interview with PostMedia, Canada's top doctor said he was never fully off work because his reasoning and mental capacity were not diminished by the stroke. He described the stroke as small.

"I've been increasing the amount of time over last couple of weeks to get into a more regular routine. I still have some left-sided weakness, so I use a cane, which helps a lot and good thing I didn't choose dance as a career,'' Butler-Jones said in the interview.

"I feel incredibly fortunate, actually, that it wasn't worse.''

The Canadian Press asked to interview Butler-Jones on Monday but was told he was not available.

The agency could not immediately say what type of stroke Butler-Jones suffered or provide further details of his illness.

But the agency did say Butler-Jones has not experienced the speech problems that can be common in stroke sufferers. He is undergoing rehabilitation for some stroke-related problems.

Butler-Jones is perhaps best known to Canadians as one of the key faces of Canada's response to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.

He has had a long career in public health, both in Ontario and Saskatchewan, where he served as the province's chief medical health officer from 1995 to 2002.

Butler-Jones was named Canada's first chief public health officer in 2004. His five-year term was extended by two years in 2009 and last fall he was reappointed for another three years.

He has led the public health agency since its creation in the aftermath of the 2003 SARS outbreak. Prior to that Health Canada was responsible for public health programs in the country.

Reports critical of the SARS response urged the creation of an independent public health agency to be headed by a figure who could speak without concern of political reprisal.