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

     The Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, this morning (June 2) convened an inter-departmental meeting on avian influenza following the confirmation of a case of Influenza A H5 infection by the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) yesterday (June 1) . 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 Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).
     Dr Chow noted that the Government has activated the Serious Response Level under the Government's Preparedness Plan for influenza pandemic. 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 and testing. A telephone hotline 2125 1111 has also been set up to answer public enquiries. The CHP will write to all medical practitioners alerting them of the development and has liaised closely with HA to step up surveillance.  The department will also send letters to institutions, elderly homes and schools to remind them to be vigilant. The World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health of China as well as the inspection and quarantine authorities 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. Hospital staff at Accident and Emergency Departments and general outpatient clinics will be vigilant to patients. Triage assessment and appropriate segregation at waiting areas would be arranged according to stipulated clinical guidelines.

     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 ground. For all acute hospitals, visiting hours would be not more than 2 hours per day and not more than 2 visitors per visit, and not more than 4 hours per day for all convalescent hospitals. Volunteering service in hospitals would be suspended under "Serious" Level. Visitors to public hospitals and clinics are advised to put on surgical masks if they have respiratory infection symptoms and perform hand hygiene before and after visiting patient areas.

     As the patient came from Guangdong province, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) under the FEHD has liaised with their Mainland counterparts for further actions. Once the CHP has obtained further information on the source of infection, CFS will announce the area within a radius of 13 kilometres of the infected area to be the "import control zone" for temporary suspension of importing live poultry and poultry products to Hong Kong for 21 days. Initially, no registered farm supplying live poultry to Hong Kong is found within the radius of 13 kilometres of the residential place of the patient. The CFS will continue their surveillance on imported live poultry at the import level.

     The FEHD will adopt a series of corresponding measures including 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 cleansing and disinfection work at public markets.

     In addition, the AFCD will complete the inspection of all 30 local chicken farms within these two days to confirm the health condition of chickens at local farms and ensure that all biosecurity and health measures are followed strictly. Live chickens supply from local farms will not be affected by this incident. The department will continue its inspection of poultry wholesale market, the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden and the pet bird shops to remind traders to stringently implement biosecurity measures. The department will continue its wild bird monitoring and surveillance and remind poultry farmers, wholesalers, pet bird shop owners, Mai Po Nature Reserve and Hong Kong Wetland Park, etc. to remain vigilant and strengthen precautionary measures against avian influenza.

     The Government will step up publicity efforts and 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 will issue a letter advising schools to stay alert in preventing the spread of avian influenza on school premises.

Ends/Saturday, June 2, 2012
Issued at HKT 13:59


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