Exposure source in Canadian H5N1 case a mystery

Friday, January 10, 2014
By Paul Martin

Robert Roos
Jan 09, 2014

It remained unclear today how the victim of the first H5N1 avian influenza infection in North America, a Canadian who visited China in December, was exposed to the virus, as health authorities stressed the case’s uniqueness and continued to describe the risk of further transmission as very low.

The victim, an Alberta resident, became ill while flying from Beijing to Vancouver, B.C., and on to Edmonton, Alta., on Dec 27, and died on Jan 3, Canadian officials reported yesterday. They have not released any identifying information about the person.

Canadian health officials at a press conference yesterday said the person did not leave Beijing during the China visit and did not visit any high-risk sites such as poultry markets. And the World Health Organization (WHO) said today that the person had no reported contact with poultry, animals, or sick people. The WHO also revealed that he or she was in Beijing from Dec 6 to 27.

China has not reported any human H5N1 cases since February 2013, and the country’s latest confirmed H5N1 poultry outbreak was reported a week ago in Guizhou province in southwestern China, a long way from Beijing.

The last two human H5N1 cases reported in China also occurred in Guizhou province, in February 2013. Reports at the time said the two patients had no history of exposure to poultry.

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