Avian Influenza Facts: What Travellers Should Know About H5N1 Bird Flu

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H5N1 BIRD FLU TRAVEL
A passenger (R) has her temperature checked by a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) staff member at the entrance of Sungshan Airport in Taipei on April 4, 2013. Taiwan enhanced its level of alert against bird flu and set up a contingency centre after China's report of seven people infected with a new strain of avian influenza, including two deaths. AFP PHOTO / Sam Yeh (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images) | SAM YEH via Getty Images

An Alberta resident is dead after contracting the H5N1 bird flu during a trip to China according to Health Canada.

The flu victim was travelling with two others and began to feel unwell on a return flight from Beijing to Vancouver on Dec. 27 via Air Canada Flight 030. The person then flew to Edmonton on board Air Canada Flight 244 and was admitted to a hospital on Jan. 1.

The individual died two days later but Heath Canada is stressing the case is an "isolated" one, adding that the two others who travelled with the victim are under the watch of health-care workers.

Health officials have not identified the gender, age or other details about the victim.

The H5N1 influenza virus is a new strain of avian flu known to quickly spread among birds. The risk to travellers is relatively low, as transmission requires contact with infected birds, according the government of Canada's travel advisory website. Human-to-human transmission is even rarer.

Those hospitalized with H5N1 face a 60 per cent mortality rate.

Symptoms of the the type A avian influenza virus aren't different from the regular flu, with coughing, aching muscles and a sore throat the most common signs. They do take anywhere from two to eight days to manifest, with pneumonia or other respiratory conditions being the more serious symptoms.

The countries with known human cases of the H5N1 in 2013 include Egypt, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Indonesia according to data from the World Health Organization.

The government recommends travellers visiting areas with known infections talk to their doctors six weeks before leaving. While abroad, Health Canada recommends avoiding poultry farms and markets, minimizing contact with birds and bird droppings and making sure that all poultry -- including eggs -- are well cooked.

Frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer are also both good practices whether travellers are in or outside the country.

Upon returning home, travellers diagnosed with an infectious disease must speak to a customs officer or a quarantine officer who will determine what the next steps are.

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