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WHO releases more details about H5N1 victim
Nicole Weisberg, CTV Edmonton
Published Thursday, January 9, 2014 1:46PM MST
Last Updated Thursday, January 9, 2014 6:50PM MST
More details are being released about the age and identity of the Alberta victim of avian flu.
The World Health Organization reported Thursday, the victim was a female Canadian citizen, previously in good health.
CTV News has also learned the woman was an employee at the Red Deer Regional Hospital, and was 28-years-old.
"We've certainly offered assistance in a number of channels towards the family, to see what we could do as a society to help them through this tragedy that has come to Red Deer," said Lawrence Lee, president of the Red Deer and District Chinese Community Society.
The woman died on January 3, in the intensive care unit at an undisclosed hospital – only two days after being admitted – and just a week after returning from a trip to Beijing.
The fatality is being described as an isolated case, but health officials are contacting other Air Canada passengers who travelled on the same flights as the victim on December 27; she travelled from Beijing to Vancouver, and then Vancouver to Edmonton, later that day.
“It doesn’t spread easily person-to-person unless you’re like a close household contact of somebody who is severely ill or perhaps a health care worker,” said infectious disease expert, Dr. Nail Rau.
“And usually the number of chains of transmission – in other words, the person who’s sick and infects one person - it doesn’t keep going more and more chains like the garden variety seasonal flu or H1N1 does.”
Officials said health care workers took extra preventative measures while working with the victim; those workers and the victim’s family, have also been given Tamiflu as a precaution.
On Thursday, The Public Health Agency of Canada said the woman went to a hospital on December 28 complaining of headaches, but was sent home because she didn't have a cough. She returned on January 1 and was admitted; she died two days later with a severe brain infection - later revealed to be H5N1.
With files from Laura Tupper
Colourized transmission electron micrograph of Avian influenza A H5N1 viruses (seen in gold) grown in MDCK cells (seen in green) are shown. (CDC / Cynthia Goldsmith)