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H5N1 Avian Flu: First imported case in Canada

Warning - Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel
Alert - Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions
Watch - Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

Released: January 17, 2014

What is the current situation?

On January 8, 2014, Canadian health officials reported a case of H5N1 avian influenza (sometimes called bird flu) in a Canadian traveler who had returned from Beijing, China. The traveler died. This is the first case of H5N1 in the Americas and is also the first case of H5N1 imported into a country where H5N1 does not exist. There have been no reports of H5N1 in people, birds, or other animals in the United States.

What is H5N1?

H5N1 is a respiratory disease that usually infects birds, not people. People rarely get H5N1, but when they do it usually happens after contact with infected birds (such as chickens, turkeys, geese, pigeons, and pheasants). Human illness from H5N1 has ranged from mild eye infections and flu-like symptoms to pneumonia and death.

The risk of H5N1 to travelers is extremely low. People who come in contact with poultry or wild birds may be at higher risk. H5N1 bird flu is widespread in poultry and wild birds in several countries in Asia and the Middle East. Outbreaks of H5N1 among birds also have been reported in Europe and Africa. See the CDC Avian Flu website for more information on bird flu in specific countries.

What can travelers do to protect themselves?

Travelers to Canada are not at risk for H5N1 flu.

Travelers to China and other areas with H5N1 in poultry and wild birds should follow these recommendations to prevent H5N1:

  • Do not touch birds or other animals.
    • Do not touch animals, whether they are alive or dead.
    • Avoid live bird or poultry markets.
    • Avoid other markets or farms with animals (wet markets).
  • Eat food that is fully cooked.
    • Eat meat and poultry that is fully cooked (not pink) and served hot.
    • Eat hard-cooked eggs (not runny).
    • Don’t eat or drink dishes that include blood from any animal.
    • Don’t eat food from street vendors.
  • Practice hygiene and cleanliness:
    • Wash your hands often.
    • If soap and water aren’t available, clean your hands with hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
    • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
    • Try to avoid close contact, such as kissing, hugging or sharing eating utensils or cups, with people who are sick.

If you feel sick and think you may have avian flu:

Additional Information

Clinician Information



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