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article imageAlberta, Canada confirms first H5N1 avian flu death

By Karen Graham     Jan 9, 2014 in Health
The H5N1 avian influenza virus has generally been confined to China and other Asian countries. Commonly reported in poultry, when humans become infected with the virus, the mortality rate is about 60 percent.
North America's first case of the H5N1 avian flu virus has been confirmed. The Canadian federal health minister, Rona Ambrose, announced the deceased person was a resident of Alberta, and had recently returned from a trip to Beijing, China.
Ambrose called the case an "isolated event," and said the risk to the general population was low. It was also stressed that there was no risk of transmission between humans. The Alberta resident died on January 3.
The avian influenza case was confirmed with laboratory tests on Monday night, according to officials, and is the first case in North America. Canada has already confirmed that 10 people have died from the H1N1 flu virus this season.
The deceased Alberta resident first showed signs of being ill on Dec. 27, 2013, on a flight from Beijing to Vancouver, Canada on Air Canada flight 030. The passenger continued on to Edmonton on another Air Canada flight and was admitted to the hospital on Jan. 1.
The passenger's fever, weakness and headache worsened, and the patient died two days later. The Canadian Public Health Agency was notified of the case on Jan. 5. Alberta's chief medical officer of health. Dr. James Talbot said there were no respiratory symptoms.
Dr, Talbot went on to explain the patient died of an inflammation of the brain and the linings that cover the brain. "That is one of the ways that H5N1 patients die," Talbot said. The patient had not gone outside of Beijing while visiting there, and did not visit any farms or markets.
Dr. Talbot pointed out that avian flu is closely associated with being in contact with poultry, although there are other ways to become infected, like eating at a restaurant that keeps live birds in the back for slaughter.
In the past 10 years, there have been over 650 deaths associated with the avian flu in 15 countries. Dr. Gregory Taylor, the deputy chief public health officer, said, "The illness [H5N1] causes in humans is severe and kills about 60 per cent of those who are infected. No other illnesses of this type have been identified in Canada since the traveller returned from China. This is an isolated case."
More about H5n1 bird flu, Alberta, Canada, Avian flu, Beijing china
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