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article imageThe state of bird flu in North America

By Tim Sandle     Feb 7, 2015 in Health
Bird flu appears to be on the rise across North America. Farmers detect H5N8 in a commercial turkey flock in California, while Canadian officials document the first known human importation of H7N9 to the country.
Two important issues relating to bird flu have arisen early into 2015. With the first case, U.S. government officials have quarantined a California turkey farm after confirming the first case of H5N8 avian influenza in the Pacific Northwest.
On detecting the incident, Foster Farms alerted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) after experiencing an increase in bird deaths and detecting H5N8 during routine testing. According to the USDA, “H5N8 did not pose a health risk to the public, and birds from the involved flock would not enter the food system.”
The highly-infectious H5N8 strain of bird flu was discovered in Europe (U.K. and the Netherlands) towards the end of 2014. Authorities in both countries suspected the source was birds migrating from Asia.
Across the border, a woman who recently returned to Canada from China is the first North American person known to have contracted H7N9 bird flu. The patient is now recovering in isolation, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
H7N9 influenza A is a bird flu strain (avian influenza). This strain is capable of infecting humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified H7N9 as "...an unusually dangerous virus for humans." In terms of sources, most of the human cases of H7N9 are linked to live bird markets.
Commenting on this incident, Gregory Taylor, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer stated: “All evidence is indicating that it is likely the individual was infected following exposure in China. I want to emphasize that the risk to Canadians is very low because there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of H7N9.”
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