OTTAWA – Canada has reported North America’s first case of H5N1 bird flu infection, in an Alberta resident who recently returned from a month’s visit to China.
The person, whose name and age were not revealed, was complaining of feeling ill on Dec. 27 when flying from Beijing to Vancouver and then on to Edmonton. The patient was admitted to hospital on Jan. 1 and died Jan. 3.
Federal public health officials said confirmation of the rare H5N1 infection was made Tuesday evening and Canada informed officials of the World Health Organization on Wednesday.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose, who took part in a hastily assembled news conference in Ottawa, said the case is likely to be an isolated one.
“The risk of getting H5N1 is very low,” Ambrose said. “This case is not part of the seasonal flu, which circulates in Canada every year.”
Contacts of the Alberta resident and the health-care workers who cared for the patient are being monitored for signs of illness but to date there does not appear to have been onward transmission of the virus.
“None of them have symptoms and the risk of developing symptoms is extremely low,” said Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.
“Precautions for health care staff were also taken as part of this individual’s hospital treatment.”