A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Wed 8 Jan 2014
Source: Government of Alberta [edited]

Health Minister Fred Horne released the following statement today
regarding Alberta’s first rare and isolated case of avian influenza:

Results that were received from the provincial laboratory on Monday [6
Jan 2014], and confirmed by the National Microbiology Laboratory on
Tuesday, indicate that an Albertan has died from H5N1 avian influenza.
This individual travelled to China in December. Upon returning to
Alberta, this person was admitted to hospital on Jan. 1 and passed
away on Jan. 3.

“I would like to extend my condolences to the family for the loss of
their loved one. I also want to thank our health care workers and our
Chief Medical Officer of Health for their swift action and for their
close co-ordination with the Government of Canada,” said Health
Minister Fred Horne.

“This is a very rare and isolated case,” said Dr. James Talbot,
Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. “Avian influenza is not
easily transmitted from person to person. It is not the same virus
that is currently present in seasonal influenza in Alberta. Public
Health has followed up with all close contacts of this individual and
offered Tamiflu [oseltamivir] as a precaution. None of them have
symptoms and the risk of developing symptoms is extremely low.
Precautions for health care staff were also taken as part of this
individual’s hospital treatment. I expect that with the rarity of
transmission and the additional precautions taken, there will be no
more cases in Alberta.”

In 2013, there were 38 worldwide cases of H5N1 avian influenza
reported to the World Health Organization and 24 deaths.

Communicated by:
ProMED-mail Rapporteur Joseph Dudley

Date: Wed 8 Jan 2014
Source: CBC News [edited]

Alberta health officials have confirmed an isolated, fatal case of
H5N1 or avian influenza, federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said
Wednesday [8 Jan 2014]. But officials repeatedly emphasized that there
is no risk of transmission between humans.

The infected person, an Alberta resident who recently travelled to
Beijing, China, died Jan. 3 [2014]. The case was confirmed in a lab
test last night. It’s the first such case in North America.

The person first showed symptoms of the flu on a Dec. 27 [2013] flight
from Beijing to Vancouver aboard Air Canada flight 030. The passenger
continued on to Edmonton on Air Canada flight 244, after spending a
few hours in the Vancouver airport, and was admitted to hospital Jan.
1 [2014]. The symptoms of fever, malaise and headache worsened and the
patient died two days later. The Public Health Agency of Canada was
notified Jan. 5.

There were no respiratory symptoms, said Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s
chief medical officer of health. Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s chief
medical officer of health, noted the patient did not leave Beijing, or
visit any farms or markets.

The diagnosis at the time of death was an inflammation of the brain
and the linings that cover the brain. “That is one of the ways that
H5N1 patients die,” Talbot said.
It is not known how the patient contracted the disease. “Virtually
every case has a pretty strong link to a close contact with birds,”
Talbot said, though he noted there are other settings in which a
person might catch H5N1, such as a restaurant that kept live birds for

Dr. Gregory Taylor, deputy chief public health officer, said the avian
form of influenza has been found in birds, mainly poultry, in Asia,
Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

There have been fewer than 650 human cases of bird flu in 15 countries
over the last decade, primarily among people who have spent time
around infected birds, he said. “The illness [H5N1] causes in humans
is severe and kills about 60 per cent of those who are infected,”
Taylor said. “No other illnesses of this type have been identified in
Canada since the traveller returned from China. This is an isolated
case.” The officials added that the patient was otherwise healthy and
it’s not yet clear how the person contracted H5N1.

“This was a relatively young — well, a young person compared to me,
with no underlying health conditions,” he said. Taylor is 58.

Officials emphasized that this is not a disease transmitted between
humans. There were two people travelling with the infected person,
whom officials are following for 10 days to ensure they don’t have any
symptoms. They are also going to notify the other passengers from the
flights between Beijing and Edmonton, and are following a group of the
patient’s “close contacts.” Talbot said family members of the victim
are being monitored and treated with medication, but noted that
there’s no sign they are sick.

Officials created confusion by referring to the patient as “him” and
“her” in order to avoid identifying anyone. Officials said that they
would not identify the sex, age or occupation of the patient. They
also refused to say whether the infected passenger was an Edmonton
resident or whether the patient went to hospital in Edmonton, although
the final leg of the flight ended there. Talbot said reports that the
patient was from Edmonton are erroneous.

Ambrose, who phoned into a news conference in Ottawa, said Canadian
officials are working with Chinese authorities on the case, as well as
the World Health Organization. “The risk of getting H5N1 is very low.
This is not the regular seasonal flu. This is an isolated case,” she

An Air Canada spokeswoman said in a statement the airline is
co-operating with officials, but referred any questions on the matter
to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

[Byline: Laura Payton]

[A graph of H5N1 human cases by country reported to WHO, 2003-2013, is
available at the source URL]
See Our Past H7N9 Blog Posts Here