First Bird Flu Fatality in North America Confirmed: Should You Be Concerned?

There are various strains of avian influenza which can cause different symptoms and effects: for example, H1N1 is easily spread but rarely fatal; whereas H5N1 spreads slowly but is fatal approximately 60 percent of the time. Illustration courtesy of TimVickers via Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image above to access the original source of the illustration.

Health officials in Alberta have reportedly confirmed an isolated case of avian influenza which proved to be fatal to a resident of Alberta, who first showed signs of fever, malaise and headache — symptoms of the bird flu, also known as H5N1 — aboard an airplane which operated as Air Canada flight 030 from Beijing to Vancouver on Friday, December 27, 2013.

The unidentified woman spent a few hours on a stopover in the airport in Vancouver before she continued on to Edmonton aboard an airplane which operated as Air Canada flight 244. After being admitted to hospital on New Year’s Day, the symptoms worsened before she died on Friday, January 3, 2014 — one week after the flight.
This is the first fatality resulting from the H5N1 strain of avian influenza documented in North America. One man in southern China had died from this disease two years ago, according to this discussion on FlyerTalk.
Although it is unclear as to how the woman contracted H5N1 — considered a severe illness which kills approximately 60 percent of those who are infected, or 371 people out of 622 infected in 15 countries since 2003 as of April 4, 2013 as I first reported in this article posted here at The Gate — it is important to note that it is rare and unusual for a human being to be infected with this disease.
While there are no concerns about an epidemic of this disease occurring anytime soon — if ever — nor should you unnecessarily worry yourself about contracting the disease if you visit China, Indonesia, Egypt, Cambodia, Vietnam or other countries where there is a possibility of contracting avian influenza, this is a good time to remind you of one of the simplest ways to best avoid being infected with germs or viruses which can cause illness:
Wash your hands properly, if you do not already do so. Although there is no guarantee that you will not contract an illness or disease despite your best efforts, washing your hands is among the most effective ways to stave off germs and viruses — or at least keep them at bay…
…and along with getting enough rest, ensure that you are eating well and providing yourself with the proper nutrition while traveling to fight bacteria from infecting your body — especially when your immune system may be compromised by the stresses of travel being inflicted upon you and cause you to travel while sick, as supposedly happened to FlyerTalk member susan126 almost five years ago; or to FlyerTalk member FatManInNYC, who contracted Parvovirus B19 during a stay in Thailand for a month four years ago.
As I have said many times in the past, these tips work for me, as I have not contracted any illness in years — other than an occasional mild cough, slight sore throat, or a runny nose barely strong enough to be irritating at best and lasting for only a few days without interfering with everyday life for me. Everybody has different needs and requirements as to what works — determine what combination of rest, nutrition and cleanliness works for you to help keep you at your healthiest while traveling.

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