VANCOUVER (Reuters) - A Vancouver area resident has tested positive for the H7N9 avian flu virus in the first documented case of the infection in a human in North America, the Canadian government said on Monday.
The woman, who is in her 50s, had returned to Canada from China and is recovering from the illness in self-isolation, the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a statement.
“I want to emphasize that the risk to Canadians is very low because there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of H7N9,” Gregory Taylor, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, said at a news conference in Ottawa.
Taylor said the woman returned to Canada on Jan. 12 after visiting numerous locations in China and began to feel ill two days later on Jan. 14.
“All evidence is indicating that it is likely the individual was infected following exposure in China,” he said. “We don’t know at this time how the individual contracted the virus.”
The woman’s male travel partner, also in his 50s, has symptoms and was likely infected at the same time, although the second case has not been confirmed, health officials said.
The H7N9 virus passes between birds, but experts say there is not enough evidence to prove it passes between humans. Most cases report contact with poultry, usually in live poultry markets, the Canadian health agency said.
The virus first infected three people in China in March 2013. In 2014, it infected 453 people, killing 175 of them, according to the World Health Organization.
Two people reportedly died of the H7N9 virus in China’s coastal Fujian province earlier this month, and recent human cases have been reported in the Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces, and Shanghai.
The H7N9 virus has not been detected in birds in Canada.
With additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Grant McCool and Andre Grenon