WHO has started investigating into an H5N1 bird flu death in Alberta to verify how the person got exposed to the virus.

Till date all the H5N1 cases had involved some form of contact with avian species. However what is puzzling with the H5N1 death in Alberta is that it did not involve any contact with poultry.

According to the head of the WHO global influenza program, Dr. Wenqing Zhang, the organization is trying to get a clearer picture of the case. The organization is looking for answers for two questions- The place where the subject acquired the infection and how did the woman get the infection. The organization will also try to find out if anyone was in close contact with the victim and the possibility of human to human transmission.

Many experts like the infectious disease consultant with Toronto’s University Health Network, Dr Michael Gardam, opine that it is very odd for any human to get infected with the H5N1 virus from a non avian source.

Dr. Michael Gardam, said, “Almost all of the cases that we’ve heard about going back to the 1990s, there’s been direct contact with poultry. So if this person hasn’t visited farms and hasn’t been around birds, that’s very odd. I imagine they’ll be doing a lot of sleuthing in China to figure out what happened.”

H5N1 cannot spread easily between people. It happened when there is sustained contact, such as between patients and family members, or patients and health-care workers.

The investigation will commence by  interviewing people in Beijing and back tracing their steps, said CBC health commentator and physician assistant Maureen Taylor.

 Taylor asked “If they can’t find a bird source, then what’s going on with this virus?  There were companions of this victim on the plane. Were they with them in Beijing? What was brought into the home as far as eating? Were there birds brought in?”

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