Canadian Health Minister Rona Ambrose has announced that an Alberta resident has died from H5N1 avian flu. Ambrose called the death “an isolated case” and said that the risk to the general public was low.
The victim first showed symptoms on December 27th on an Air Canada flight from Beijing to Vancouver. After arriving in Vancouver the passenger continued their trip to Edmonton. On January 1st they were admitted to hospital and died two days later.
Fears are that mutations are already taking place in the H5N1 virus:
Dr James Talbot, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health has stated that the victim did not leave Beijing and did not visit any farms or poultry markets during the visit.
There were no respiratory symptoms…The diagnosis at the time of death was an inflammation of the brain and the linings that cover the brain. That is one of the ways that H5N1 patients die,” Talbot said. (source)
According to the World Health Organization, H5N1 has a mortality rate of 60%..
Regardless of Ambroses’ reassurances, this could not have happened at a worse time. 10 people have died in Alberta of H1N1 this season, and the worry is that the two viruses could combine allowing genetic reassortment to take place. Reassortment allows similar viruses to swap genetic material. This could for example allow H5N1 to pass from person to person as easily as H1N1 does. Alternatively it could allow H1N1 to cause more serious illness and deaths than it does at present, due to the inclusion of genetic material from H5N1. (source)
Dr Gregory Taylor, deputy chief of public health said:
“The avian form of influenza has been found in birds, mainly poultry, in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
There have been fewer than 650 human cases of bird flu in 15 countries over the last decade, primarily among people who have spent time around infected birds, he said.
The illness [H5N1] causes in humans is severe and kills about 60 per cent of those who are infected,”
The officials added that the patient was otherwise healthy, and it’s not yet clear how the person contracted H5N1. (source)
There has always been the danger that H5N1 would be ‘imported’ rather than occur naturally in the bird population due to migration etc. Lets just hope this really is the isolated case the officials say it is.
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Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up!