Alberta H5N1 bird flu victim passed through Vancouver airport
An Alberta resident who died of H5N1 avian influenza after returning from a trip to China had a layover at Vancouver International Airport.
But B.C.'s provincial health officer says it's not likely that the sick traveller, who is the first person in North America to die from H5N1, passed on the disease to anyone at YVR.
"This individual did travel through the Vancouver International Airport on their way to Edmonton and we have confirmed that the individual spent 2.5 hours in Vancouver airport on Dec. 27 between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., awaiting a connecting flight," Dr. Perry Kendall said in a statement today (January 8).
"From what we know about H5N1, human-to-human transmission is very rare and, if it occurs, is confined to close family contacts. It is, therefore, extremely unlikely that any passengers or casual contacts would have been at risk. Furthermore, the average incubation period for H5N1 infection is between three and four days, so anyone who might have been exposed to this patient would, by now, have developed recognizable signs and symptoms."
The individual in question travelled to Beijing in December. On January 1, this person was admitted to a hospital in Edmonton for severe respiratory illness, and went on to die on January 4.
According to Kendall, H5N1 has not been discovered in B.C. during this flu season.
"As always, travellers who develop new respiratory symptoms accompanied by breathing difficulty or other signs of worsening within two weeks of their return should consult a physician with information about their travel history," Kendall said.
"Most respiratory illness at this time of year, including among returning travellers, will be due to common viral illness such as seasonal influenza, including the H1N1 virus."
A news release issued today by Alberta Health notes that 24 people died (out of 38 cases) worldwide from H5N1 in 2013.