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Canada’s Minister of Health, Rona Ambrose, talks about H5N1 avian flu

The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health and Dr. Gregory Taylor, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer held a technical briefing yesterday afternoon to discuss the H5N1 avian influenza situation in Canada.

Here are the speaking notes for both Ms. Ambrose and Dr. Taylor:

Good afternoon. I am Rona Ambrose, Canada’s Minister of Health.

I am here to confirm North America’s first human case of H5N1, also known as avian flu.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has confirmed that a resident of Alberta, Canada who recently returned from a trip to China, has died of H5N1.

The health system did everything it could for this individual and our thoughts are with the family at this time.

The risk of H5N1 to Canadians is very low as there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission. Importantly, this is not part of the seasonal flu, which circulates in Canada every year. This is an isolated case.

Our Government and the Public Health Agency of Canada is committed to disease surveillance and is working closely with its public health partners across the country and around the world.

bird flu

H5N1 Avian Influenza
Image/CDC

The Public Health Agency of Canada continues to work closely with Alberta Health and other provincial health authorities to ensure the health and safety of Canadians.

The Public Health Agency has notified China, the World Health Organization and other international partners about the case, in keeping with our commitment under the International Health Regulations.

Our Government will work closely with its national and international partners, including the World Health Organization.

The Agency will continue to work with Chinese authorities to follow up on the source and circumstances of this infection.

We are holding today’s technical briefing to deliver a clear message to Canadians, the risk of getting H5N1 is very low. This is not the regular seasonal flu. This is an isolated case

Our Government is committed to ensuring that Canadians have up-to-date, accurate information and we will continue to communicate in an open and transparent way.

Now I’ll turn it over to Dr. Gregory Taylor, our deputy chief public health officer for Canada.

Thank you Minister.

I would like to echo the Minister’s comments in extending our condolences to the family and friends of this individual.

H5N1 influenza is not the same as the seasonal flu.

This is the first and only confirmed human case of H5N1 in North America.

The risk of transmission is very low. There is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.

H5N1 is an avian form of influenza which has been found to circulate among birds, mainly poultry. It has been found in birds in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

There has only been less than 650 human cases of H5N1 in 15 countries over the last decade, primarily in people who were exposed to infected birds.

The illness it causes in humans is severe and kills about 60 per cent of those who are infected.

No other illnesses of this type have been identified in Canada since the traveller returned from China.

This is an isolated case.

The individual began to feel unwell on a return flight from Beijing to Vancouver (Air Canada 030) and Vancouver to Edmonton (Air Canada 244) on December 27.

The symptoms worsened and the individual was hospitalized, and passed away on January 3.

The Public Health Agency of Canada was notified on January 5th of the case, by Alberta. Our National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg received specimens yesterday.

Last night, January 7th, lab results confirmed this was H5N1. This morning Canadian officials have been in contact with the World Health Organization.

The patient’s family is not showing any signs of illness. There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission on airplanes.

All evidence is indicating that this is one isolated case in an individual who was infected following exposure in China.

Although we don’t know at this time how the individual contracted the virus, for Canadians travelling abroad – in keeping with our travel health advice – we recommend:

If you are travelling to an area where any avian influenza is a concern:

  1. avoid high-risk areas such as poultry farms and live animal markets;
  2. avoid unnecessary contact with birds, including chickens, ducks and wild birds;
  3. avoid surfaces that may have bird droppings or secretions on them; and
  4. ensure that all poultry dishes are well cooked, including eggs .

Thank you

 

For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page and the Outbreak News This Week Radio Show page.

 

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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