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Update on psittacosis outbreak in Sheung Shui

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (November 27) provided an update on its joint investigation with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) into an outbreak of psittacosis respiratory disease involving five AFCD male staff working in the New Territories North Animal Management Centre (NTNAMC) in Sheung Shui.

     A CHP spokesman said that the respiratory specimens from three patients (a 55-year-old patient at Queen Mary Hospital, a 62-year-old patient in Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital and a 27-year-old patient who has been discharged from Yan Chai Hospital) tested positive for Chlamydophila psittaci by polymerase chain reaction as confirmed by the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Centre, suggesting that they were suffering from psittacosis infection.  

     So far, a total of five AFCD staff working in the NTNAMC have developed respiratory symptoms (mostly pneumonia) requiring admission to hospitals. One has recovered and the other four are currently in hospitals in Hong Kong (three) and Australia (one).

     The CHP has successfully contacted 59 AFCD staff working in the NTNAMC and eight of them are found to currently have upper respiratory symptoms. Arrangements will be made with the Hospital Authority for these eight persons to undergo medical assessment and laboratory investigation to rule out psittacosis.

     The joint investigation is under way. The total number of laboratory confirmed cases so far in this outbreak is three.

     The spokesman said that psittacosis is a disease caused by Chlamydophila psittaci. It is usually transmitted to humans by inhaling the agent from the dried droppings and secretions of infected birds. Pet birds such as parrots, cockatiels, parakeets, macaws and poultry (turkeys and ducks) are most frequently involved. Person-to-person transmissions are rare.

     Common symptoms include fever, headache, rash, muscle pain, chills and dry cough. Pneumonia may occur in serious cases. Encephalitis, myocarditis and thrombophlebitis are occasional complications. The incubation period ranges from one to four weeks. Psittacosis can be effectively treated with antibiotics.

     To prevent psittacosis, members of the public are advised to take heed of the following measures:

* Wear gloves and face masks when handling the droppings and secretions of birds;
* Wash both hands thoroughly after handling birds;
* Avoid close contacts with birds;
* Disinfect bird cages and surfaces contaminated by bird droppings and secretions; and
* Seek medical treatment if symptoms develop.

Ends/Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Issued at HKT 19:01


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