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First deadly case of avian flu confirmed in North America

Published time: January 08, 2014 22:13
AFP Photo / Tengku Bahar

AFP Photo / Tengku Bahar

Canadian health officials confirmed the first deadly case of H5N1 avian flu in North America, following the death of a person in western Canada after a trip to China in December.

Health Minister Rona Ambrose revealed that the individual was a resident of Alberta who had travelled to Beijing, China. During the press-conference the minister added that the case is “isolated” and the risk to the general population remains low. “This case is not part of the seasonal flu,” she said.

“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,” said Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Officials will be contacting everyone who was aboard the same flights with the now deceased individual, but believe that no one is at risk.

Alberta has recorded 10 deaths from the H1N1 influenza during the current flu season.

But, H5N1 rarely infects humans and usually targets domestic poultry in various parts of Asia and the Middle East.

Health officials highlight that the flu does not spread between humans. When people do get infected, their lower respiratory tract is targeted, which can lead to deadly pneumonia.

So far, there had been 38 human cases reported in 2013, which led to 24 deaths.