SFH on avian influenza

     Following is the transcript of remarks (English portion) made by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, on a patient case of Influenza A (H5) infection, at a stand-up media session at the West Wing lobby of Central Government Offices today (November 18):

Reporter: Is there a heightened risk for Mainland poultry and how will the Government step up its monitoring?

Secretary for Food and Health: At the moment we cannot say that there is an increase in risk of the poultry that is imported into Hong Kong because as far as our contact with the Guangdong Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau (GDCIQ) is concerned, there is no report of abnormality in the farms that supply chickens to Hong Kong. But we have agreed to heighten our vigilance in terms of testing of those chickens. We will be increasing the amount of testing to about 25 percent regarding the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) swabs of all the chickens that cross our border everyday and also testing of the antibodies within those chickens. At the same time, we have also raised the alert on local farms. In the next few days, our Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department colleagues will be going around those thirty farms in Hong Kong to check on the health status and obtain samples for testing.

Reporter: Can you tell us what was covered in the inter-departmental meeting?

Secretary for Food and Health: This morning we held an inter-departmental steering committee meeting. The participating departments included the Department of Health, the Hospital Authority, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, the Tourism Commission, the Education Bureau, the Social Welfare Department, the Home Affairs Department, and the Information Services Department.  All these departments participated in the meeting and shared the information we have given them, and each one of them will look at the areas that they might need to heighten the vigilance and also the precautions. In general, we think the risk of avian influenza in Hong Kong is not that significantly higher than before. But since there is one case, we have to be very careful as it might actually point out its source of infection, which might give rise to another case. Whether this "another case" will be in Hong Kong or outside Hong Kong, we still cannot actually predict. But I think we have to take all precautions so that in case if it is a risk in Hong Kong, we can find out as early as possible.

Reporter: Was this particular patient too late in seeking medical attention or was it too late that the diagnosis came?

Secretary for Food and Health: As I said it is very difficult to judge at this moment because at the time when the patient presented to the Accident and Emergency Department of Tuen Mun Hospital, her condition did not warrant being admitted. Whether some sort of test should have been done at that stage, I don't think I can comment at this stage. But we will review the history of the medical care there. But what I have said earlier on is, since we understand that there is a risk of avian influenza in this region, we demand and also request the Hospital Authority to step up its vigilance. Whenever there is a patient who has a high fever and any symptoms or signs of pneumonia, or x-ray evidence of pneumonia, they should do the PCR test as early as possible to rule out any serious avian influenza in those cases. So that will be the practice from now.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript)

Ends/Thursday, November 18, 2010
Issued at HKT 15:07