WHO would like more info on fatal H5N1 case

EDMONTON — The World Health Organization has confirmed that North America’s first H5N1 patient was a woman in her late 20s.

EDMONTON — The World Health Organization has confirmed that North America’s first H5N1 patient was a woman in her late 20s.

The woman is believed to have contracted the infection in China, where she spent most of December in Beijing.

She was ill on her return to Canada on Dec. 27, was hospitalized on Jan. 1 and died on Jan. 3.

One of the WHO’s flu experts says the agency would like more information on her illness, because initial reports have suggested her symptoms were not entirely typical of H5N1 infections.

Dr. Nikki Shindo says the agency would like to know if there has been an autopsy or if one is planned.

Autopsies can yield a wealth of information about a disease but are not commonly done and are frowned on by some cultures.

It wasn’t immediately known if an autopsy was conducted in this case.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. James Talbot, has said the woman had neurological symptoms that made doctors suspect she had encephalitis, or a brain infection.

While that isn’t a common symptom of flu it can happen, and has been reported in some H5N1 cases.

In fact, Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s top flu expert, says when he heard of the case, he was struck by the reference to encephalitis.

The first known person infected with H5N1 — a three year old boy in Hong Kong in 1997 — showed signs of encephalopathy, says Fukuda, who helped investigate that outbreak.

Shindo says the WHO has gotten preliminary information on the case, but hopes to learn more on Friday about the steps China and Canada will take to try to figure out how the woman became infected with the bird flu virus.

There have been no recent H5N1 outbreaks reported by China, but the timing of the woman’s symptoms suggest she must have been infected there.

Shindo says Chinese authorities have been looking aggressively for non-human influenza A viruses because of the country’s more recent problems with H7N9 — another bird flu — so it is somewhat surprising to see an H5N1 case like this pop up.

Fukuda says the likelihood is that this will turn out to be a one-off case, with the woman having been infected by exposure to a bird or a contaminated environment. But piecing together how that exposure occurred may be difficult.

“We usually ask people about poultry exposure, poultry market exposure and all of those things,” he says. “But from the beginning, there has always been a percentage of people that we haven’t really known how they got infected.”

Just Posted

Envisioned exterior of the future Red Deer Aquatic Centre, by GEC Architects. Council determined Monday that it will eventually be built on the Michener North site, off 30th Avenue. (Contributed image).
Red Deer’s aquatic centre will be built on Michener North site

Rotary Recreation Rark has too many space constraints, most councillors decided

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has advised that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can be used interchangeably for second doses and Alberta is following that approach. (File photo by The Canadian Press)
Red Deer down to 66 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer has lowest number of active cases since last November

(Advocate file photo).
Red Deer drivers warned about temporary lane closure on 67th Street

Power line will be rebuilt in six-month project

Black Horse Singers performed for students at Ecole la Prairie on Monday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Students remind Red Deer that every child matters on National Indigenous Day

Heart-shaped messages to decorate trees at Ecole la Prairie through the summer

Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson, center, tries to get position for a shot against New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) during the second period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 21, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Stamkos, Vasilevskiy pace Lightning’s 8-0 rout of Islanders

Lightning 8 Islanders 0 (Tampa Bay leads series 3-2) TAMPA, Fla. —… Continue reading

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he’s ‘convinced’ the city will be able to get rid of the mandatory mask bylaw in July. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
‘Made in Calgary’ approach will keep mask requirements past Alberta’s total reopening

Calgary won’t be following provincial recommendations on the mandatory wearing of masks… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a debate in the House of Commons, in Ottawa, Tuesday, June 1, 2021. Parliamentarians are entering what could be their final stretch in the House of Commons before it breaks for summer as the Liberal government sharpens its focus around two key pieces of legislation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Liberals, opposition clash with days left to pass legislation before House rises

OTTAWA — Parliamentarians are in their final week before a summer break… Continue reading

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border measures start easing in July for fully vaccinated Canadians

OTTAWA — Fully vaccinated Canadians returning to Canada will soon be able… Continue reading

The home of Lionel and Shanna Desmond in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S., is shown in this undated police handout aerial photo. An inquiry investigating why a former Canadian soldier killed his family and himself in 2017 heard today from a relative who said Lionel Desmond's mental health appeared stable after he served in Afghanistan in 2007, but there was a dramatic decline over the next 10 years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Lionel Desmond Fatality Inquiry
Lionel Desmond inquiry: soldier’s sister-in-law testifies about his mental decline

PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — An inquiry investigating why a former Canadian soldier… Continue reading

People look over the damage after a tornado touched down in Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal, Monday, June 21, 2021. Dozens of homes were damaged and one death has been confirmed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
One dead and extensive damage as tornado hits Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal

MONTREAL — One person was killed after a tornado struck Mascouche, Que.,… Continue reading

President of the Public Health Agency of Canada Iain Stewart, right, approaches the bar in the House of Commons to be admonished by the Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, June 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
PHAC president rebuked, still doesn’t produce documents on fired scientists

OTTAWA — The Conservatives are asking that the Public Health Agency of… Continue reading

Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks (24) gestures to teammates during the first half of Game 5 of their NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Salt Lake City.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Rick Bowmer
After months of speculation, Canada’s men’s basketball roster set ahead of qualifier

With a tantalizingly deep pool of talent, Canada’s men’s basketball roster has… Continue reading

Most Read