Alberta confirms death from avian influenza

An individual from Alberta, Canada, died on January 3 after contracting H5N1 avian influenza, the province's health minister said on Wednesday.

Alberta's Health Minister Fred Horne said that results from the National Microbiology Laboratory confirmed that the deceased Albertan contracted the province's first rare and isolated case of avian flu. The individual traveled to China in December. Upon returning to Canada, the individual was admitted to a hospital on January 1 before passing away on January 3.

"I would like to extend my condolences to the family for the loss of their loved one," Horne said. "I also want to thank our health care workers and our chief medical officer of health for their swift action and for their close coordination with the government of Canada."

In 2013, there were 38 cases of H5N1 avian influenza reported to the World Health Organization and 24 deaths worldwide. James Talbot, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said it was unlikely the rare disease would spread.

"This is a very rare and isolated case," Talbot said. "Avian influenza is not easily transmitted from person to person. It is not the same virus that is currently present in seasonal influenza in Alberta."

Talbot said none of the patient's close contacts have symptoms and the risk of developing symptoms is very low. Healthcare staff took precautions to avoid infection as well.