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Alberta resident dies from H5N1 avian influenza

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In what is the first case reported on the North American continent, the Alberta, Canada government announced today the death of a resident due to H5N1 avian influenza, according to a government press release Jan. 8.

The statement from Health Minister Fred Horne says the yet unidentified individual traveled to China in December. Upon returning to Alberta, this person was admitted to hospital on Jan. 1 and passed away on Jan. 3.

Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health states that this case is very rare and isolated. In addition, he makes clear to Albertans that H5N1 avian influenza is not the same as the seasonal flu that is currently circulating and doesn't transmit well person-to-person.

“Public health has followed up with all close contacts of this individual and offered Tamiflu as a precaution. None of them have symptoms and the risk of developing symptoms is extremely low. Precautions for health care staff were also taken as part of this individual’s hospital treatment, Talbot said.

“I expect that with the rarity of transmission and the additional precautions taken, there will be no more cases in Alberta.”

In 2013, there were 38 confirmed cases of the lethal bird flu with 26 of the cases reported from Cambodia alone. Of that total, 24 resulted in death.

The total number of cases confirmed and reported to the World Health Organization since 2003 is 648 and 384 fatalities (59 percent case-fatality rate).

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