Canadian who traveled to China died of bird flu, but risk low

Jan. 8, 2014 at 11:58 PM
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OTTAWA, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- An Alberta resident who recently traveled to Beijing died of bird flu, but Canadian health officials say there is no risk of transmission between humans.

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said the avian flu -- H5N1 -- fatality, confirmed by a laboratory, was a relatively young person with no underlying health conditions, and, who unlike other avian flu fatalities, did not have contact with chickens on a farm or in an open market, the CBC reported.

Health officials said that they would not identify the sex, age or occupation of the patient, who was the first bird flu case in North America.

The person showed symptoms of avian flu on a Dec. 27 flight from Beijing to Vancouver aboard Air Canada flight 030, but after spending a few hours at the Vancouver airport, the patient continued to Edmonton on Air Canada flight 244, the CBC said.

The person was admitted to the hospital on Jan. 1 with symptoms of fever, malaise and headache.

Dr. James Talbot, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, told the CBC there were no respiratory symptoms, but that there was inflammation of the brain and the linings that cover the brain.

"That is one of the ways that H5N1 patients die," Talbot said.

Health officials said it is not known how the patient contracted the disease. The patient did not leave Beijing, visit a farm and or visit any markets.

"Virtually every case has a pretty strong link to a close contact with birds," Talbot said, but added there are other settings in which a person might catch H5N1, such as a restaurant that kept live birds for slaughter.

"The risk of getting H5N1 is very low. This is not the regular seasonal flu," Ambrose told the CBC."This is an isolated case."

Health officials said they are tracking the people and family the traveler was in close contact with, but there are no signs they are sick.

In addition, the health officials said they planned to notify the other passengers from the flights.

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