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Steering Committee on Avian Influenza updates avian flu precautionary measures (with photos)

     The Chairperson of the Steering Committee on Avian Influenza and the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, this morning (November 18) convened an inter-departmental meeting on avian influenza following the confirmation of a case of Influenza A (H5N1) infection by the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) yesterday (November 17). The meeting reviewed the latest situation and preventive measures being taken by various parties against avian flu.

     The inter-departmental meeting was attended by representatives from the Department of Health (DH), the Hospital Authority (HA), the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), the Education Bureau, the Social Welfare Department, the Home Affairs Department, the Tourism Commission and the Information Services Department.
     Dr York Chow said the Serious Response Level under the Government's Preparedness Plan for influenza pandemic had been activated. To prevent the spread of the virus, the inter-departmental group had decided to take a series of actions according to the contingency plan for the Serious Response Level.

     Accordingly, the CHP under DH has stepped up surveillance by testing all severe pneumonia cases for H5. A telephone hotline 2125 1111 has been set up to answer public enquiries. The CHP has written to all medical practitioners alerting them of the development and has liaised closely with HA to step up surveillance. The department has also sent letters to institutions, elderly homes and schools to remind them to be vigilant against avian influenza. The World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health of China have been informed of the case.

     For public hospitals, the HA had activated the Serious Response Level to implement a series of measures to enhance surveillance and infection control. The HA will closely monitor all suspected as well as confirmed cases and enhance the existing report mechanism.  Furthermore, high risk patients attending Accident and Emergency Departments and general out-patient clinics will be triaged according to stipulated clinical guidelines, and appropriate tests will be performed when it is clinically indicated.

     Under the Serious Response Level, more stringent infection control measures will be enforced in public hospitals, which include no visiting at isolation wards unless on compassionate grounds.  For general acute hospitals, visiting time is limited to not more than two hours a day and two persons at a time; for infirmary/convalescent hospitals, it is limited to not more than four hours a day and two persons at a time.  Visitors to public hospitals and clinics are required to wear surgical masks and ensure hand hygiene before and after visiting patient areas.

     The FEHD has also taken a series of corresponding measures. They include stepping up inspection at public market stalls and fresh provisions shops, enhancing surveillance and random checking of any incompliance with the prohibition against overnight stocking of live poultry at the retail level and stepping up surveillance, cleansing and disinfection work at public markets, especially Yan Oi Market in Tuen Mun, as well as enhancing surveillance on live poultry at the import level. Cleansing and disinfection work has also been carried out by the staff of the Department at the patient's apartment as well as the common parts of the building concerned.

     In addition, the AFCD will complete the inspection of all 30 chicken farms within these two days. The department will step up the inspection of the poultry wholesale market and the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden to remind traders to stringently implement biosecurity measures. The department will continue its wild bird monitoring and surveillance and collect swab samples at various locations for H5 testing. The department has also reminded poultry farmers, wholesalers, pet bird shop owners, Mai Po Nature Reserve, Hong Kong Wetland Park and Ocean Park, etc. to remain vigilant and strengthen precautionary measures against avian influenza.

     The Government will step up publicity efforts. The Information Services Department will increase the broadcast of Announcements in the Public Interest (APIs) on avian influenza prevention on television and radio to further advise the public on precautionary measures. In addition, the Education Bureau has issued a letter advising schools to stay alert in preventing the spread of avian influenza on school premises. A letter from the CHP is enclosed for schools' reference.

     The Committee also requested departments, including the Social Welfare Department, Tourism Commission, Home Affairs Department and other relevant organisations to take vigorous precautionary measures to prevent the spread of avian flu.

Ends/Thursday, November 18, 2010
Issued at HKT 21:03


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