Via The Globe and Mail, André Picard writes: Canadian is first to die from H5N1 bird flu in North America. Excerpt:
Dr. James Talbot, chief medical officer for Alberta, said the person was admitted to hospital on Jan. 1 with high fever and “decreasing CNS consciousness” (meaning extreme lethargy). There was no cough or other signs of respiratory illness, which is usually the case with influenza, but not always with H5N1. Dr. Talbot said the patient died of meningoencephalitis, or swelling of the brain.
Because of the unusual presentation of the illness, a sample of the person’s blood was sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, which confirmed on Tuesday night that the infection was caused by H5N1 virus.
The person in question took Air Canada flight 030 from Beijing to Vancouver and Air Canada flight 244 from Vancouver to Edmonton, both on Dec. 27.
While there is no risk to fellow travellers, health officials said they will contact all passengers on those flights to reassure them.
The deceased was accompanied by two other Canadian “companions” and they are being monitored closely, but have shown no signs of illness.
“This is not a disease that is transmitted between humans,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, director-general of the Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response at the Public Health Agency of Canada. As a result, there will be no travel advisory for Canadians traveling to China, and no special measures will be taken for travellers arriving from Beijing, she added.
The World Health Organization recorded 38 cases of H5N1 last year, including 24 deaths. This is the first death in North America.