A rift has emerged among researchers about how to study the potentially pandemic H5N1 flu virus as it claims its first Western victim

Friday, January 10, 2014
By Paul Martin

JANUARY 09, 2014

THE death of a Canadian who mysteriously contracted avian flu while on a flight from China has exposed a scientific community terrified of its own research into the killer disease.

And so they should be. The bird-carried virus which – so far – is only rarely transmitted to humans has had a mortality rate of up to 83 per cent in Indonesia.

Canadian health officials said today a fatal case of H5N1 bird flu has been reported, the first such case in North America. The victim was travelling from China when symptoms first appeared.

“I am here to confirm North America’s first human case of H5N1, also known as avian flu,” Canada health minister Rona Ambrose told a press conference, confirming the patient died.

Bird flu, or avian influenza, is a contagious disease caused by viruses that normally infect only birds and sometimes pigs. It can be fatal to humans.

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