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

Lacombe County residential development and golf course proposed

Lincoln Ranch would include 100 homes and nine-hole golf course

UPDATED: Shots fired in Riverside Meadows

Red Deer RCMP search for more suspects

Exploring eating disorders in sports and fitness

Eating Disorders Awareness Week runs Feb. 1 to 7

Driver in fatal crash acquitted

A 19-year-old Red Deer woman was killed and another injured in June 2012 crash west of Bowden

Royal close shave: Prince William opts for dramatic buzz cut

LONDON — The hair on the heir is no longer quite so… Continue reading

WATCH: Alberta Party leadership candidates in Red Deer

Three people vying to be the leader of the Alberta Party were… Continue reading

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month