First H5N1 avian flu death in North America

Story highlights

  • The Alberta resident who died of H5N1 had recently traveled to Beijing, health minister says
  • The death was "an isolated case;" Canadians at little risk, Rona Ambrose says
  • H5N1 is found mostly in parts of Asia and northeastern Africa
  • Most people who have died of the virus had close contact with poultry
Canadian health officials confirmed Wednesday that a resident from Alberta has died from H5N1 avian flu, the first case of the virus in North America.
Canada's Health Minister, Rona Ambrose, said the infected individual had recently traveled to Beijing.
The Canadian case also is the first case of H5N1 infection ever imported by a traveler into a country where the virus is not present in poultry. No such H5N1 viruses have been detected in people or in animals in the United States.
Ambrose stressed that Canadians should not be worried about contracting the virus.
"As Canada's Health Minister I want to reassure the public this is an isolated case," Ambrose said. "The risk of H5N1 to Canadians is very low. There is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission. It is also important for Canadians to know that this case is not part of the seasonal flu which circulates in Canada every year."