Canadian health officials have confirmed a second human infection of H7N9 avian influenza. A man from British Columbia, whose wife had earlier been diagnosed with avian influenza, has also contracted the virus, Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Gregory Taylor, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's deputy provincial health officer, confirmed.

The two human infections appear unrelated to recent outbreaks of avian influenza in Canadian birds, as the couple recently returned from a trip to China.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the couple had not been symptomatic during travel, but began showing symptoms after arrival in Canada. The woman’s diagnosis of H7N9 avian influenza was confirmed by both the British Columbia provincial laboratory and PHAC’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg on January 26. At that time, the man had been showing symptoms, but the presence of avian influenza in his system had not yet been confirmed.  

The affected individuals did not require hospitalization and are currently recovering from their illness. 

To date, the couple are the only people from North America to have contracted avian influenza, according to PHAC.

Henry said she was confident that the virus will not spread beyond those two patients. “Public health officials have completed their follow up of contacts, and there has been no further spread. Given the time frame of illness, we are confident that we will not see any additional related cases here in British Columbia,” she said.