A spokesman for the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) today (December 7) provided an update on the second confirmed human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Hong Kong affecting a man aged 80.
"The Serious Response Level under the Government's Preparedness Plan for Influenza Pandemic has been activated while the CHP's epidemiological investigation and follow-up actions are currently in full swing," the spokesman remarked.
"The patient had been transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) under isolation. His current condition remains stable," he said.
As of 4pm today, contact tracing conducted by the CHP has located 19 close contacts and over 130 other contacts. Details are as follows:
(A) Nineteen close contacts of the patient have been quarantined and prescribed with Tamiflu prophylaxis, including:
1. Thirteen patients (including two with non-specific symptoms) who had stayed in the same cubicle with the confirmed patient in Tuen Mun Hospital (TMH);
2. His five family members, who have remained asymptomatic, have been quarantined in PMH; and
3. The taxi driver who had taken the patient and his family members from Shenzhen Bay Port Border Control Point (SBP BCP) to TMH on December 3 was located. He has remained asymptomatic and has been quarantined in PMH.
The specimens of the 18 close contacts all tested negative for the avian influenza A(H7N9) virus upon preliminary laboratory testing by the Public Health Laboratory Services Branch (PHLSB) of the CHP while the result of the remaining sample belonging to an asymptomatic close contact is pending. They will be put under quarantine for 10 days since their last contact with the patient. During isolation, if their health conditions change, further testing and surveillance will be conducted.
(B) Over 130 other contacts, including other relatives of the patient, healthcare workers (HCWs) of TMH and the ambulance service, relevant hospital visitors as well as an immigration control officer at SBP BCP, are all under medical surveillance. Among them, four HCWs of TMH who presented with non-specific symptoms tested negative for the avian influenza A(H7N9) virus.
As regards the first confirmed case, the 36-year-old female patient is still under isolation at Queen Mary Hospital in a critical condition. As of 4pm today, no additional close contacts of this case have been identified. The number of close contacts located remains at 17 while there are now 230 other contacts under medical surveillance. The 17 close contacts remain under quarantine for 10 days since their last contact with the patient. During isolation, if their health conditions change, further testing and surveillance will be conducted.
The epidemiological investigation into the two cases by the CHP, including contact tracing and tracing the source of infection, is ongoing.
Locally, enhanced surveillance over suspected cases in public and private hospitals is under way. The CHP will continue to maintain liaison with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Mainland and overseas health authorities to monitor the latest developments and obtain timely and accurate information. Local surveillance activities will be modified according to the WHO's recommendations.
"All border control points (BCPs) have implemented disease prevention and control measures. Thermal imaging systems are in place at BCPs for body temperature checks of inbound travellers. The DH has liaised with the Auxiliary Medical Service and the Civil Aid Service to deploy additional manpower at BCPs to conduct random temperature checks using handheld devices. Suspected cases will be immediately referred to public hospitals for follow-up investigation," the spokesman said.
Regarding health education for travellers at BCPs, the distribution of health education pamphlets, display of posters on avian influenza A(H7N9) in departure and arrival halls, in-flight public announcements, environmental health inspection and the provision of regular updates to the travel industry via meetings and correspondence have all been escalated. The DH will keep a close eye on the latest developments and adopt corresponding port health measures.
"We have enhanced our publicity and health education on the prevention of avian influenza. The CHP has also sent letters to government departments and related organisations to reinforce our health advice on the prevention of avian influenza," the spokesman added.
The CHP hotline (2125 1111) has been set up for public enquiries. As of 4pm today, 72 calls had been received.
"Travellers, especially those returning from avian influenza A(H7N9)-affected areas with fever or respiratory symptoms, are reminded to immediately wear facial masks, seek medical attention and reveal their travel history to a doctor. Healthcare professionals should also pay special attention to patients who might have had contact with birds, poultry or their droppings in affected areas," the spokesman advised.
The spokesman also urged travellers not to visit live poultry markets in the affected areas and avoid direct contact with poultry, birds and their droppings. If contact has been made, they should thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water.
Members of the public should remain vigilant and are reminded to take heed of the following preventive advice against avian influenza:
* Poultry and eggs should be thoroughly cooked before eating;
* Wash hands frequently with soap, especially before touching the mouth, nose or eyes, handling food or eating; after going to the toilet or touching public installations or equipment such as escalator handrails, elevator control panels or door knobs; or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing;
* Cover the nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing, and hold the spit with a tissue and put it into a covered dustbin;
* Avoid crowded places and contact with fever patients; and
* Wear a mask when respiratory symptoms develop or when taking care of fever patients.
The public may visit the CHP's avian influenza page (www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/24244.html) and its website (www.chp.gov.hk/files/pdf/global_statistics_avian_influenza_e.pdf) for more information on avian influenza-affected areas.
Ends/Saturday, December 7, 2013
Issued at HKT 21:43