Via the Edmonton Journal, a few more details: Albertan’s death first confirmed case of deadly bird flu virus in North America. Excerpt:
An Albertan has become the first person in North America to die from the rare H5N1 virus, also known as avian or bird flu.
The victim died on Jan. 3, about a week after returning from a trip to China to visit family, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced Wednesday.
Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said he is confident the virus will not spread. The victim’s family is showing no symptoms and the bird flu virus, unlike other types of flu, is extremely difficult to pass from human to human.
Talbot declined to provide any details about the patient’s identity, including age, gender or hometown, though he said the victim began experiencing symptoms of “fever, malaise and headache” on Dec. 27 flights from Beijing to Vancouver and Vancouver to Edmonton.
He said the victim, who does not live in Edmonton, checked into an undisclosed hospital Jan. 1 and died two days later in an intensive care unit.
“One of the unusual features of this case was that at no time did they have a cough or respiratory type symptoms. For some H5N1s, that is a typical course and they tend to deteriorate pretty rapidly,” Talbot said.
“The diagnosis at time of death was meningoencephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain and linings that cover the brain. That is one of the ways H5N1 patients die.”
Specimens sent to a provincial lab were found on Sunday to be negative for the more common H3N2 and H1N1 flu strains now circulating in Alberta. The National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg then became involved, confirming Tuesday the existence of North America’s first case of H5N1.
Talbot said Alberta health officials initiated a “close contact followup” immediately after learning that the victim had developed a serious illness in China. Everyone who had been in contact with the deceased was monitored closely for symptoms and offered the antiviral drug Tamiflu.
Health workers wore protective clothing and gloves while treating the victim, he said.
“As a consequence of the fact it is very rare to see transmission and that we took extra precautions and no one is symptomatic, I am confident there will be no transmission within the province of Alberta,” Talbot said.
“In the middle of the H1N1 season, it would have been easy to write this off as an unfortunate consequence of the H1N1 (outbreak), but because of our vigilance we were able to (handle) this in what I think is a textbook manner.”
In a related report, the Journal reports that Alberta expects to run out of seasonal flu vaccine by Friday.