Canadian health officials have confirmed the first human death from H5N1 in North America, in a person who recently visited China.
The individual, a resident of Alberta, was hospitalized on New Year's day with a high fever and extreme lethargy and died January 3. There was no record of the person having visited poultry farms while in China.
Officials were quick to say that this was a highly unusual case and that there was no risk for the general public.
“The risk of getting H5N1 is very low,” said Rona Ambrose, Canada’s Minister of Health. “This is not the regular seasonal flu. This is an isolated case."
A sample of the individual's blood was sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, which confirmed H5N1.
The deceased, whose name has not been disclosed, took an Air Canada flight from Beijing to Vancouver and another flight to Edmonton. The person in question was not a risk to fellow passengers, but health officials are contacting them to reassure them.
There have been only 650 reported cases of H5N1, with more than 60 percent of them resulting in death. The World Health Organization recorded 38 cases of H5N1 last year, including 24 deaths. This is the first death in North America.
[The Globe and Mail]