Monday, January 26, 2015

PHAC Statement On Canada’s Imported H7N9 Case


Photo Credit- CDC


# 9631


In a case smacking of deja flu - just over a year after North America’s first imported case of H5N1 (in a traveler recently returned from China) - we learn of our first imported case of H7N9, this time in the Vancouver area.


Crof has a report from the Globe and Mail (see Canada: BC resident confirmed with H7N9; relative may be a second case),  and Helen Branswell has a little bit more in her report Canada finds case of H7N9 bird flu in traveller; first in North America.


Canada’s PHAC has posted this statement:

Government of Canada and British Columbia confirm case of H7N9 avian influenza in Canada

B.C. case is the first documented case of H7N9 in humans in Canada

The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Gregory Taylor, Terry Lake, British Columbia’s Minister of Health and Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s Deputy Provincial Health Officer today confirmed that an individual in B.C. has tested positive for the H7N9 avian influenza strain. The individual recently returned to Canada from China. This is the first documented case of H7N9 infection in a human in North America.

The risk to Canadians of getting sick with H7N9 is very low as evidence suggests that it does not transmit easily from person-to-person.

The individual is a resident of British Columbia and was not symptomatic during travel and only became sick after arrival in Canada. The individual did not require hospitalization and is currently recovering from their illness, in self-isolation.

All close contacts of the individual have been identified and their health is being monitored by provincial public health authorities. The Canadian healthcare system has strong procedures and controls in place to respond to and control the spread of infectious diseases and protect healthcare workers.

The diagnosis of H7N9 was confirmed by both B.C.'s provincial laboratory and the Agency’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

The Agency works closely with its national and international partners, including the WHO, to track all types of flu activity in Canada and around the world.

Though the individual was not symptomatic, and H7N9 does not transmit easily from person-to-person, the Agency is committed to ensuring Canadians have all the information they need, as a result, we are sharing the flight number.  The individual was on Air Canada flight 8.

Quick Facts
  • H7N9 is a type of avian influenza virus that has been seen in people in China since 2013. Almost all of the cases reported contact with poultry, usually in live poultry markets.
  • To date, the H7N9 strain has not been detected in birds in Canada.
  • The Agency’s Travel Health Notices on provide information on how to protect yourself from avian influenza while abroad.
  • There is no risk of catching the virus by eating well-cooked poultry. Canada does not import raw poultry or raw poultry products from China.
  • Canadians can help protect themselves and their loved ones from the flu in general by:
    • Getting an annual influenza shot
    • Washing hands frequently;
    • Covering coughs and sneezes;
    • Keeping common surfaces clean; and
    • Staying home when sick.
  • The Agency has notified China, the World Health Organization and other international partners about the case, in keeping with our commitment under the International Health Regulations.

“Today we are confirming the first case of H7N9 in humans in North America.   We continue to work with our national and international partners to track infectious disease outbreaks in Canada and around the world to ensure the health and safety of Canadians.  Public Health Agency of Canada continues to advise and emphasize that H7N9 does not spread easily from person to person and the risk remains very low.”

Honourable Rona Ambrose
Minister of Health

"The Agency is in close contact with the provincial public health authority to monitor the situation in B.C. and is committed to providing Canadians with accurate and up-to-date information about H7N9 infections and about how Canadians can protect themselves from avian and seasonal influenzas at home and abroad. The risk of H7N9 to Canadians is very low as there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.”

Dr. Gregory Taylor
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada

“I would like to reassure British Columbians that while we have identified the first case of influenza H7N9 here in BC, the risk to the public remains very low. This strain does not transmit easily from person to person, and I am pleased to report that the patient is recovering. I would like to send my best wishes to them, and would also like to thank our dedicated public health officials for their commitment to protecting the health and safety of all British Columbians.”

Terry Lake
Minister of Health, British Columbia

“This represents the first time that we have confirmed influenza H7N9 in North America, but it is a strain that we in the public health community have been watching closely since 2013. I would like to stress that the risk remains very low to the public. This individual did not need to be hospitalized, and is recovering well at home, away from the public. Public health officials are doing comprehensive follow up with contacts to ensure that there is no further spread.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry
Deputy Provincial Health Officer

Interestingly, the confirmed and the suspected case both experienced only mild illness, and neither required hospitalization.  Another clue that suggests the number of cases in China are likely far greater than are being picked up by their hospital based surveillance – a prospect we discussed at some length yesterday.


The arrival of H7N9 to North America is hardly unexpected, given our increasingly mobile society and the lengthy (3-10 day) incubation period of these viruses.


In 2014 alone, in addition to the spread of Ebola, we’ve seen the importation of H5N1 into Canada, imported MERS-CoV cases in the United States (along with 20+ other countries), imported H7N9 to Taiwan and Hong Kong, imported CCHF in the UK, and Lassa fever in a traveler in Minneapolis, and Chikungunya which has infected 1 million people in the Caribbean over the past twelve months.


And frankly, these are just the highlights.

Welcome to the new normal, and to one of the best reasons in the world for maintaining a strong public health system.

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