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Public Health Agency of Canada - H5N1 FAQ

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  • Public Health Agency of Canada - H5N1 FAQ

    H5N1 FAQ <!-- CONTENT TITLE ENDS | FIN DU TITRE DU CONTENU -->

    What is H5N1?

    H5N1 (commonly known as ?avian flu?) is an influenza virus that causes a severe respiratory infection that can spread easily and quickly among birds.

    While H5N1 commonly causes sickness in birds, it can also infect people. People who contract avian influenza (H5N1) can get very ill, and more than half die from it.

    The risk of transmission is very low. There is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.

    How and why is H5N1 different from the seasonal flu?

    Seasonal influenza spreads easily from person to person whereas the H5N1 strain of flu does not. The current flu shot protects people from seasonal flu; it does not protect against H5N1. Seasonal flu is circulating in many countries in the Northern Hemisphere.

    People are at risk for H5N1 if they travelled to an area of a country where H5N1 is circulating and had contact with poultry farms or live animal markets where they might be exposed to this flu?and even then their risk would be low.

    How can anyone be certain it won?t travel human-to-human? Is this likely to become a pandemic?

    Canadians should not worry, this is one case and it is rare. According to the WHO, there have been no sustained human to human or community level transmissions thus far, therefore it is unlikely to become a pandemic.

    There is no evidence of transmission on an airplane. There is indication of very limited human to human contact in close family settings. Given the timelines associated with this individual?s illness, and the low likelihood of human-to-human transmission, it is unlikely that anyone who came into contact during travel could be infected.

    Should airline workers or hospital employees close to the case, or people who travelled with the individual in question, be concerned?

    No. There is no evidence of transmission on an airplane. Given the timelines associated with this individual?s illness, and the low likelihood of human-to-human transmission, it is unlikely that anyone who came into contact during travel could be infected.

    Are you following up with them to have them tested?

    There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission on airplanes.

    The Agency is following up with other passengers on the flights to provide assurance of the low risk. Both flights took place December 27, 2013. They included a flight from Beijing to Vancouver (Air Canada 030) and from Vancouver to Edmonton (Air Canada 244).

    If Canadians have questions who do they contact?

    If Canadians feel ill or have influenza-like symptoms, they should contact a healthcare practitioner.

    Canadians with questions about H5N1 or the regular flu should also visit fluwatch.ca for information.

    Does this have any implication for travellers to or from Canada or China?

    No, it does not. The Agency is not advising any travel restrictions related to H5N1 at this time, a Travel Health Notice has been posted to provide advice to Canadian travellers. It is available on the Agency?s website. We will continue to monitor this situation very closely and advise Canadians as appropriate.

    The Government has programs in place to help identify international travellers who might be sick at borders to limit the potential spread of communicable disease in Canada. However, unless an infected person appears visibly ill upon arrival into Canada, they will not be stopped for assessment.

    What happens if there are more cases and there is an outbreak in Canada, are we prepared? If so how?

    Yes, we are prepared.

    The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is continually monitoring the outbreaks of avian influenza H5N1 in poultry, as well as human cases in Asia and other countries.

    Highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 has not been identified in birds in Canada.

    The risk posed to humans by avian influenza in birds is generally very low. Avian influenza does not transmit easily from birds to infect humans.

    PHAC works closely with its national and international partners, including the World Health Organization, to track flu activity in Canada and around the world.

    How many cases of H5N1 in humans have been in Canada?

    The Alberta resident who died after getting infected in China is the first identified and confirmed case of H5N1 in North America.

    Is H5N1 always fatal?

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the mortality rate for people who become infected is about 60%. The WHO also states that transmission from person to person is difficult.

    How is H5N1 treated?

    The public health system in Canada is always on alert during flu season for any signs of influenza-like illness. Cases of severe respiratory illness are taken seriously and every medical intervention is made. Antivirals may be used.

    How are the federal and provincial governments monitoring for other potential cases of H5N1 in Canada?

    The public health system in Canada is always on alert during the flu season for any signs of influenza-like illness. Cases of severe respiratory illness are taken seriously and every medical intervention is made.

    What steps are being taken to detect the possible spread of H5N1 by the deceased?

    There is no evidence of transmission on an airplane. There is indication of very limited human to human contact in close family settings. Given the timelines associated with this individual?s illness, and the low likelihood of human-to-human transmission, it is unlikely that anyone who came into contact during travel could be infected.

    We continue to monitor the situation and work with all federal, provincial and international counterparts.

    Does Canada import birds/poultry from China?

    There is no risk of catching the flu virus by eating well-cooked poultry. Canada does not import raw poultry or raw poultry products from China.

    Is there a vaccine for H5N1 available in Canada?

    While a vaccine for H5N1 was authorized for sale in Canada in 2013, it is not currently commercially available. Similar to other countries, Canada keeps a small stockpile of H5N1 vaccine. This vaccine would only be used if the virus were to mutate to a form that is more easily transmitted from human to human. We have not seen this happen in three decades.
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    Date Modified: 2014-01-16

    http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/id-mi/h5n1-faq-eng.php
    "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
    -Nelson Mandela

  • #2
    Re: Public Health Agency of Canada - H5N1 FAQ

    "We have not seen this happen in three decades."

    Really? Has H5N1 been around in Canada since 1983? Or in any other part of the world for that long as a major public health concern?

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