First Human Case of H5N1 Avian Flu in North America

CANADA - The first human case of H5N1 avian influenza (A) has occurred in North America. The victim, who has died, is thought to have contracted the disease in China.
calendar icon 9 January 2014
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The Public Health Agency of Canada has confirmed that a resident of Alberta, Canada who recently returned from a trip to China, has died of H5N1, according to Rona Ambrose, Canada’s Minister of Health at a briefing.

The health system did everything it could for this individual and our thoughts are with the family at this time.

The Minister stressed that the risk of H5N1 to Canadians is very low as there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission. Importantly, this is not part of the seasonal flu, which circulates in Canada every year. This is an isolated case, she added.

The Minister said the Canadian Government and the Public Health Agency of Canada are committed to disease surveillance and is working closely with its public health partners across the country and around the world.

The Public Health Agency of Canada will continue to work closely with Alberta Health and other provincial health authorities to ensure the health and safety of Canadians. It has also notified China, the World Health Organization and other international partners about the case, in keeping with our commitment under the International Health Regulations.

The Agency will continue to work with Chinese authorities to follow up on the source and circumstances of this infection.

At the same briefing, Dr Gregory Taylor, deputy chief public health officer for Canada, said that the individual began to feel unwell on a return flight from Beijing to Vancouver (Air Canada 030) and Vancouver to Edmonton (Air Canada 244) on 27 December.

The symptoms worsened and the individual was admitted to hospital and passed away on 3 January.

The Public Health Agency of Canada was notified on 5 January of the case, by Alberta. The National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg received specimens on 7 January and later that day, lab results confirmed this was H5N1.

The patient’s family is not showing any signs of illness, said Dr Taylor. There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission on airplanes.

All evidence is indicating that this is one isolated case in an individual who was infected following exposure in China, he added.

Further Reading

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