China: Three infected with bird flu virus, one dead

A Chinese man has died of H7N9 bird flu and two other members of his family were infected with the deadly virus, raising concerns about the prospect of human-to-human transmission of disease.

Chinese health authorities said a family of three was infected with H7N9 bird flu in east China’s Zhejiang, the province worst-affected by the current spike in cases.

A 49-year-old man in Hangzhou city was on January 20 confirmed to have been infected with the virus. His wife and daughter, who accompanied him to the hospital, were later also confirmed infected.

The man has died while his daughter is in a serious condition and his wife is stable, local officials said. Experts have reached no firm conclusion on how the virus spread between the family members.

They all may have had contact with poultry, or the father may have transmitted the flu to his wife and daughter, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Even if the case is confirmed as person-to-person transmission, there is no need to panic, said Li Lanjuan, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a specialist in H7N9 prevention.

“So far there have not been any cases in which one person transmits the flu to another, and the latter transmits the virus to a third person,” said Li. In this year’s epidemic, transmission has been limited to a second person, who does not transmit the virus to a third. H7N9 is not likely to be spread in schools, workplaces or at gatherings, said Chen Zhiping, deputy head of the provincial disease control and prevention centre.

China has already sounded a nation-wide alert like last year, when the virus first struck, leaving 45 dead. Three new human H7N9 cases were reported in Zhejiang yesterday, bringing the number of infections in the province this year to 56. All three are in a critical condition. In neighbouring Fujian province, a two-year-old child tested positive for bird flu, according to the provincial health commission. The patient is now recovering.

South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region also reported one new case yesterday. The National Health and Family Planning Commission said yesterday that live poultry markets would close if a case of H7N9 was detected. Chicken has been a required dish on Chinese dining tables for centuries during Spring Festival, which begins on Friday.

Source: firstpost

H5N1 bird flu death confirmed in Alberta, 1st in North America

Alberta health officials have confirmed an isolated, fatal case of H5N1 or avian influenza, federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said Wednesday.

But officials repeatedly emphasized that there is no risk of transmission between humans.

The infected person, an Alberta resident who recently travelled to Beijing, China, died Jan. 3.

The case was confirmed in a lab test last night. It’s the first such case in North America.

The person first showed symptoms of the flu on a Dec. 27 flight from Beijing to Vancouver aboard Air Canada flight 030. The passenger continued on to Edmonton on Air Canada flight 244, after spending a few hours in the Vancouver airport, and was admitted to hospital Jan. 1. The symptoms of fever, malaise and headache worsened and the patient died two days later. The Public Health Agency of Canada was notified Jan. 5.

There were no respiratory symptoms, said Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.

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.

It is not known how the patient contracted the disease. The patient did not leave Beijing, did not travel to farms and did not visit any markets.

“Virtually every case has a pretty strong link to a close contact with birds,” Talbot said, though he noted there are other settings in which a person might catch H5N1, such as a restaurant that kept live birds for slaughter.

Rare in humans

Dr. Gregory Taylor, deputy chief public health officer, 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 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,” Taylor said.

“No other illnesses of this type have been identified in Canada since the traveller returned from China. This is an isolated case.”

The officials added that the patient was otherwise healthy and it’s not yet clear how the person contracted H5N1.

Speaking to Evan Solomon, host of CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, Taylor said the patient was relatively young.

“This was a relatively young — well, a young person compared to me, with no underlying health conditions,” he said. Taylor is 58.

Risk of getting H5N1 low

Officials emphasized that this is not a disease transmitted between humans.

There were two people travelling with the infected person, whom officials are following for 10 days to ensure they don’t have any symptoms. They are also going to notify the other passengers from the flights between Beijing and Edmonton, and are following a group of the patient’s “close contacts.”

Talbot said family members of the victim are being monitored and treated with medication, but noted that there’s no sign they are sick.

Officials created confusion by referring to the patient as “him” and “her” in order to avoid identifying anyone. Officials said that they would not identify the sex, age or occupation of the patient. They also refused to say whether the infected passenger was an Edmonton resident or whether the patient went to hospital in Edmonton, although the final leg of the flight ended there.

Talbot said reports that the patient was from Edmonton are erroneous.

Ambrose, who phoned into a news conference in Ottawa, said Canadian officials are working with Chinese authorities on the case, as well as the World Health Organization.

“The risk of getting H5N1 is very low. This is not the regular seasonal flu. This is an isolated case,” she said.

An Air Canada spokeswoman said in a statement the airline is co-operating with officials, but referred any questions on the matter to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Source: CBC news