British Columbia

H5N1 bird flu death: What does it mean for B.C.?

B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, addresses concerns over avian influenza after a traveller who flew from Beijing to Vancouver later died from the H5N1 virus.

Dr. Perry Kendall says human-to-human transmission of H5N1 is very rare

H5N1 flu death an isolated case

9 years ago
Duration 2:13
Experts say there's no need to worry despite Alberta woman's death

Concerns are growing in British Columbia after a traveller who flew from Beijing to Vancouver in December later died from H5N1 or avian influenza in Edmonton.

The person, who has been identified only as an Alberta resident, first showed symptoms of bird flu on Dec. 27 aboard Air Canada flight 30 from Beijing to Vancouver.

The passenger continued on to Edmonton on a connecting flight and was admitted to hospital Jan. 1. The infected person died Jan. 3.

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

Travelling to China for Chinese New Year?

  • Avoid poultry markets.
  • Avoid contact with live poultry.
  • Stay away from backyard poultry.
  • Do not eat undercooked poultry.
  • Do not touch raw poultry in the kitchen.

Returning from travel in China?

  • If you become ill within 14 days of travel, check in with your doctor.

Source: Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C. provincial health officer

Speaking on Wednesday, B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, said the person spent 2½ hours in Vancouver International Airport, between 12:30 p.m. PT and 3 p.m. PT on Dec. 27, waiting for the connecting flight.

However, he said, "human-to-human transmission is very rare and confined to close family contact." Therefore, it is extremely unlikely any airport contact with fellow passengers would put them at risk.

He also emphasized that the virus has an incubation period of three to four days, so anyone who had come into contact with the traveller and been infected would have presented symptoms by now.

There have been no H5N1 cases in B.C. to date, although there was an outbreak of the virus among poultry in the Fraser Valley in 2005. Kendall could not confirm whether this was the same strain which proved fatal to the traveller.

According to Kendall, the H5N1 virus has a mortality rate in excess of 60 per cent, and there have been around 600 cases worldwide, in about 15 countries, since 2003.

"It was only a matter of time, given global travel patterns, before we saw cases in North America," he said.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?