The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

Health Alert


Avian influenza (H7N9 and others) in China

Updated February 16, 2015

Updated: February 12, 2015

Travel Health Notice

Since April 2013, confirmed human cases of an avian influenzaExternal link virus identified as A(H7N9) have been reported in the People’s Republic of China. These cases of H7N9 flu virus were of particular concern as they were the first reported cases of this avian influenza virus in humans.

The majority of cases have occurred in neighbouring regions in eastern and south eastern China, including travel-related cases in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan. In January 2015, Canada reported two cases of H7N9 in travellers who returned from a trip to China. These are the first confirmed human cases of H7N9 in North America.

For the latest updates on H7N9 flu virus, including the total number of cases and deaths, please visit the WHO’s Global Alert and Response websiteExternal link.

Many different influenza viruses are found in animals and do not normally infect humans. However, some of these viruses (including H5N1, H5N6, H9N2 and H10N8) have been known to cause human illness.

The Chinese government is responding to this event and the investigation is ongoing. The WHO is working closely with the national authorities to better understand the situation. At this time, there is no evidence of ongoing human-to-human transmission.

The Public Health Agency of Canada works closely with its national and international partners, including the WHO, to track all types of flu activity in Canada and around the world. The Agency will continue to monitor the situation and inform the public as information becomes available.

The Agency recommends that travellers reduce their risk by following the tips listed below.


Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

  1. Minimize your risk of being exposed to avian influenza:
    • If you are travelling to an area where avian influenza is a concern:
      • avoid high-risk areas such as poultry farms and live animal markets including areas where poultry may be slaughtered;
      • avoid unnecessary contact with birds, including chickens, ducks and wild birds;
      • avoid surfaces that may have bird droppings or secretions on them; and
      • ensure that all poultry dishes are well cooked, including eggsExternal link.
  2. Wash your hands frequentlyExternal link:
    • Wash your hands with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds, as often as possible.
    • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not  available. It’s a good idea to always keep some with you when you travel.
  3. Practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette:
    • Cover your mouth and nose with your arm to reduce the spread of germs. If you use a tissue, dispose of it as soon as possible and wash your hands afterwards.
  4. Monitor your health:
    • If you have developed flu-like symptoms and you have been travelling or living in an area where avian influenza is a concern:
      • Upon arrival in Canada, tell a border services officer or a quarantine officer.
      • If you develop symptoms within 14 days after your return to Canada, you should see a health care provider and tell them where you have been travelling or living.