Canadian health officials recently confirmed that an Alberta resident (identified in some reports as a woman in her 20s) has died from H5N1 (“avian flu”), the first known fatal case of the virus in North America. It’s also the first case of avian flu ever imported by a traveler into a country where the virus isn’t currently present in poultry.
The infected individual had recently traveled to Beijing and died on Jan. 3, 2014, two days after returning from China. It’s unclear how the deceased may have contracted the illness.
The Health Minister said Canadians shouldn’t be worried about contracting the virus, saying the “risk of H5N1 to Canadians is very low. There is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.” But as a precaution, Health Canada was contacting passengers who been on the same flights as this individual.
Since 2003, there have been 648 lab-confirmed human cases of H5N1 flu reported in 15 countries. Of those, 384 resulted in death.
Although it’s unlikely that this tragic death is a sign of an imminent avian flu pandemic, you may want to review some information and resources about the virus so you can prepare your workplace in the event it does spread in Canada:
- Avian Influenza: What Employers Must Do to Protect Workers, Part 1
- Avian Influenza: The Duty to Create a Preparedness Plan, Part 2
- Avian Influenza Screening Form.