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Addressing H5N1 concerns9:34
Alberta health officials have confirmed an isolated, fatal case of H5N1 or avian influenza, federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said Wednesday.
- Bird flu questions and answers
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- Map: Flu outbreaks across Canada
But officials repeatedly emphasized that there is no risk of transmission between humans.
The infected person, an Alberta resident who recently travelled to Beijing, China, died Jan. 3.
The case was confirmed in a lab test last night. It’s the first such case in North America.
The person first showed symptoms of the flu on a Dec. 27 flight from Beijing to Vancouver aboard Air Canada flight 030. The passenger continued on to Edmonton on Air Canada flight 244, after spending a few hours in the Vancouver airport, and was admitted to hospital Jan. 1. The symptoms of fever, malaise and headache worsened and the patient died two days later. The Public Health Agency of Canada was notified Jan. 5.
There were no respiratory symptoms, said Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.
The diagnosis at the time of death was an inflammation of the brain and the linings that cover the brain. “That is one of the ways that H5N1 patients die,” Talbot said.
It is not known how the patient contracted the disease. The patient did not leave Beijing, did not travel to farms and did not visit any markets.
“Virtually every case has a pretty strong link to a close contact with birds,” Talbot said, though he noted there are other settings in which a person might catch H5N1, such as a restaurant that kept live birds for slaughter.
Rare in humans
Dr. Gregory Taylor, deputy chief public health officer, said the avian form of influenza has been found in birds, mainly poultry, in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
There have been fewer than than 650 human cases of bird flu in 15 countries over the last decade, primarily among people who have spent time around infected birds, he said.
“The illness [H5N1] causes in humans is severe and kills about 60 per cent of those who are infected,” Taylor said.
“No other illnesses of this type have been identified in Canada since the traveller returned from China. This is an isolated case.”
The officials added that the patient was otherwise healthy and it’s not yet clear how the person contracted H5N1.
Speaking to Evan Solomon, host of CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, Taylor said the patient was relatively young.
“This was a relatively young — well, a young person compared to me, with no underlying health conditions,” he said. Taylor is 58.
Risk of getting H5N1 low
Officials emphasized that this is not a disease transmitted between humans.
There were two people travelling with the infected person, whom officials are following for 10 days to ensure they don’t have any symptoms. They are also going to notify the other passengers from the flights between Beijing and Edmonton, and are following a group of the patient’s “close contacts.”
Talbot said family members of the victim are being monitored and treated with medication, but noted that there’s no sign they are sick.
Officials created confusion by referring to the patient as “him” and “her” in order to avoid identifying anyone. Officials said that they would not identify the sex, age or occupation of the patient. They also refused to say whether the infected passenger was an Edmonton resident or whether the patient went to hospital in Edmonton, although the final leg of the flight ended there.
Talbot said reports that the patient was from Edmonton are erroneous.
Ambrose, who phoned into a news conference in Ottawa, said Canadian officials are working with Chinese authorities on the case, as well as the World Health Organization.
“The risk of getting H5N1 is very low. This is not the regular seasonal flu. This is an isolated case,” she said.
An Air Canada spokeswoman said in a statement the airline is co-operating with officials, but referred any questions on the matter to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Source: World Health Organization
Figures for all countries except Canada are current as of Dec. 10, 2013. Canada’s one case was reported on Jan. 8, 2014.
The federal government is moving ahead with plans to strip certain public servants of the right to strike.
The second budget implementation act, which was introduced by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty Tuesday, will make it illegal for any bargaining unit declared to provide an essential service to strike.
Instead, such workers will be forced into arbitration in cases of a contract dispute. The rule will apply to any union where 80 per cent or more of the positions are considered to be necessary for providing an essential service.
The proposed legislation goes onto say that “the employer has the exclusive right to determine that a service is essential and the number of positions required to provide that service.”
In other words, the government decides when the rule applies. “A democratically elected government should have the right to identify what Canadians consider ‘essential services,'” read an email sent to CBC News from Treasury Board President Tony Clement’s office.
The Harper government also defended its intent to set public service pay and benefit levels. “The proposed amendments will bring savings, streamline practices and bring them in line with other jurisdictions,” said the government’s emailed comments. “Our government will sit at a bargaining table on behalf of the taxpayer where the rules are fair and balanced.”
Canada’s largest union representing public-sector workers says it was caught by surprise by these changes.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada says it is too early to say exactly what the impact will be — but they know they don’t like it.
“This bill represents a far-reaching attack on public service workers and the unions that represent them,” said PSAC President Robyn Benson.
“The government is upsetting the balance of labour relations, and is showing a callous disregard for due process, health and safety and the collective bargaining rights of every single public service employee,” Benson said.
“The collective bargaining rights and the protections of workers who face discrimination, who do dangerous work, or who are treated unfairly will be undermined by the proposals in this bill.”
The union measure was just one of several provisions in the 300-plus page document, including several measures that do not appear to relate to anything in last March’s budget, including such housekeeping matters as:
- Changing the definition of “passport” in the Criminal Code to match the one used in other legislation.
- Implementing the freeze in Employment Insurance premiumsannounced by Flaherty a few weeks ago.
- Enacting the MacKenzie Gas Projects Impacts Act, which was announced in 2006.
There are also more substantive changes that were not announced or even foreshadowed in the March budget, including:
- Making declaratory provisions to amend the Supreme Court Act, to make it clear judges with 10 years at the bar of a province are eligible to represent that province on the court, a direct attempt to resolve a legal challenge to the recent appointment of Justice Marc Nadon.
- Getting rid of health and safety officers and handing their powers to the federal Minister of Labour.
- Changes to the Immigration and Refugee Act that give the minister more power to pick and choose from economic and professional immigrants who may or may not apply for permanent residency status.
Deficit shrinking more quickly than predicted
Flaherty said Tuesday the government is $7 billion ahead of pace toward balancing the budget in 2015.
He said spending controls the government put in place that have worked better than expected are responsible for the bulk of the improvement in Ottawa’s fiscal position.
Flaherty said last year’s final deficit will come in at $18.9 billion, better than the $25.9 billion predicted in his budget.
This year’s anticipated $18.7 billion deficit will likely be revised lower when the minister recalculates the books in the fall economic update, expected in about a month.
- Budget bill to amend Supreme Court Act for Nadon (cbc.ca)
- Federal Gov’t Bargaining in Bad Faith (local115.wordpress.com)
- Budget bill contains surprise reforms aimed at weakening public service unions (calgaryherald.com)
- Budget bill broadens federal power to curb public-sector strikes (theglobeandmail.com)
A CN Rail train carrying liquefied petroleum gas and crude oil has derailed about 80 kilometres west of Edmonton, prompting 49 people to evacuate homes in the area.
Parkland County Emergency Services says it received a call about the accident involving a westbound train around 1 a.m. MT Saturday.
The Transportation Safety Board says 13 cars — four carrying petroleum crude oil and nine carrying liquefied petroleum gas — left the tracks along Highway 16 and Range Road 61 in the hamlet of Gainford.
Carson Mills, spokesman for Parkland County, told CBC News that two of the cars containing liquefied petroleum gas are on fire.
Highway 16 traffic has been re-routed north along Secondary Highway 765, westbound along Secondary Highway 633 and returning southbound on Secondary Highway 757.
- Canadian Natural Resources says leaks contained at its Primrose oilsands operation (calgaryherald.com)
- ‘Nobody understands’ spills at Alberta oilsands operation (thestar.com)
- Environmental disaster in Canada – Primrose oilsands site in Alberta unable to stop oil leaking for over nine weeks (philosophers-stone.co.uk)
- Ongoing spill puts focus on regulator: critic (metronews.ca)
- Northern Gateway hearings enter final two weeks of submissions (beaconnews.ca)
- Northern Gateway’s biggest risk to Canada is not approving pipeline: Enbridge (business.financialpost.com)
- Northern Gateway is in best interest of all Canadians, company tells review board (vancouversun.com)
- Enbridge backers Cenovus, Suncor to make their case for Northern Gateway (business.financialpost.com)
- Federal panel to hear final pitch for and against Northern Gateway pipeline (theprovince.com)
- Final Enbridge Northern Gateway hearings begin in Terrace today (vancouverobserver.com)
- Police review video of officer allegedly striking man during Edmonton arrest (warning: graphic image) (calgaryherald.com)
- Edmonton police investigate suspicious death in west Edmonton (globalnews.ca)
- Edmonton police investigating suspicious package outside courthouse (metronews.ca)
- Police involved shooting at Kingsway Garden Mall (beaconnews.ca)
- Nordegg, Lodgepole given evacuation notice due to wildfires (globalnews.ca)
- Wildfire forces evacuation of Nordegg and Lodgepole (calgaryherald.com)
- Alberta communities evacuated due to wildfires (cp24.com)
- Petro-Can stations running dry across Prairies as refinery repaired (calgaryherald.com)