Thursday, January 9, 2014

First Human Case of A(H5N1) Imported into the Western Hemisphere

Influenza A(H5N1) jumped to humans for the first time in 1997 and since then more than 650 confirmed cases of H5N1 have been reported. These cases have been reported from 15 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, but none from countries in the Western Hemisphere.

On January 8, Canadian public health officials announced that a woman, in her late 20s, from Red Deer, Alberta, died from H5N1 on Jan 3, 2014. She had returned from the People’s Republic of China via Beijing after visiting for three weeks within China. She apparently fell ill on the return flight to North America. Although it is likely she was infected in China in late December 2013, this is the first confirmed case of H5N1 reported in North America. (link below)

Should you be concerned if you live in North America?

This single case does not indicate that there is an H5N1 outbreak in North America. A single imported case in Canada should not spark pandemic hysteria. Even though over the years researchers have speculated that H5N1 could be the next pandemic virus, this case does not signal the start of a pandemic.

Of more immediate concern for people in North America is seasonal Influenza. Seasonal influenza is particularly virulent this 2013-2014 flu season. Rather than worrying about H5N1, people should educate themselves about different ways of protecting themselves from the seasonal flu varieties that are now widely circulating.

The best course of action is to monitor your local public health agencies for updates and heed any recommendations for minimizing exposure to all infectious disease.

Canada - H5N1 death in Alberta after travel from China - died from meningoencephalitis

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