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Steering Committee on Preparedness Plan for Influenza Pandemic holds meeting

     The Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, today (December 9) convened a meeting of the Steering Committee on Serious Response Level under the Preparedness Plan for Influenza Pandemic to discuss and follow up on the latest development of the two confirmed human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Hong Kong and relevant contingency measures with the departments concerned.

     The Hospital Authority (HA) briefed the Steering Committee on the condition of the two patients. The 36-year-old female patient, who was confirmed of being infected with avian influenza A(H7N9) on December 2, is still under quarantine treatment at the intensive care unit of the Queen Mary Hospital. Her condition has improved from "critical" to "serious" last night. She no longer has fever and does not need the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation machine for respiration. As for the case confirmed on December 6 involving an 80-year-old male patient, the patient is in stable condition with slight fever. He will continue to receive treatment under isolation in the Princess Margaret Hospital and further testing will be conducted.

     Epidemiological investigation by the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is still proceeding, including tracing close contacts and the source of infection. Regarding the 36-year-old female patient, the number of close contacts remains at 17. Twelve of them completed quarantine. Among these 12 close contacts, 11 have returned home and are under medical surveillance for another 10 days, while one remains in hospital for treatment of personal health problems. The remaining five close contacts remain under quarantine for 10 days. Counting from the day when they had last contact with the patient, today is the last day of their quarantine. Meanwhile, there are about 230 other contacts under medical surveillance.  

     For the 80-year-old male patient, the specimens of his 19 close contacts are all tested negative for the avian influenza A(H7N9) virus. They will be put under quarantine for 10 days since their last contact with the patient. About 140 other contacts are under medical surveillance.

     Lady MacLehose Holiday Village in Sai Kung under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) is still being used as a quarantine centre. Currently, six asymptomatic close contacts of the second case are under quarantine in the centre.

     According to the latest information available, the Steering Committee maintains their view that the two cases are imported sporadic cases. In addition to notifying the relevant Mainland authorities of the two confirmed cases, CHP and HA sent officers to visit Shenzhen this morning to meet with officials from the Health and Family Planning Commission and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of Guangdong Province and Shenzhen City respectively, and clinical experts, etc.. Both sides exchanged the latest findings on the epidemiological investigations of the two confirmed cases.  

     According to the current investigation result, the patient of the first confirmed case might have visited a residential unit in Nanwan Subdistrict of Longgang District in Shenzhen and handled a live chicken. However, the patient was unable to speak clearly the source of the chicken. For the second case, family members of the patient bought and cooked a slaughtered chicken from a market in Fuyong Town in Shenzhen. However, the patient did not visit live poultry market nor had contact with live poultry directly.

     The Mainland authorities have started the relevant investigations and taken samples for testing. So far, no positive testing results were found. Both Guangdong and Hong Kong are of the view that the source of infection of the two cases is yet to be confirmed. Both sides have agreed to maintain close liaison and continue to exchange the latest information.

     With regard to imported live poultry, Hong Kong has suspended import of live poultry from the registered poultry farms in Shenzhen since December 3 as an urgent and special precautionary measure. The suspension will remain in effect. Once more information on the source of infection comes to light, the Government will review and adjust the arrangement with the Shenzhen inspection and quarantine authority according to the latest situation.

     Regarding local live poultry retail outlets, poultry farms and wholesale market, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) will continue to conduct inspections, step up cleansing and disinfection efforts as well as collect samples from poultry and wild bird environment for testing of avian influenza. The two departments have been working and co-operating closely with the Customs and Excise Department to check travellers' baggage at boundary control points with the assistance of detector dogs to combat illegal import of live poultry/poultry meat into Hong Kong. The Government will also enhance publicity and education programmes to remind the public not to import live poultry/ poultry meat illegally.

     The Government will continue to closely monitor the situation and maintain transparency in disseminating information to the public. Relevant departments will stay vigilant to ensure various contingency measures are implemented properly and make adjustments in a timely manner.

     The Government reminds the public again to maintain good personal and environmental hygiene; wash hands frequently; and avoid contact with wild birds and animals. While travelling abroad, the public should avoid contact with birds and poultry to minimise the risk of infections.

     The meeting today comprises representatives from CHP of the Department of Health, HA, FEHD, AFCD, the Education Bureau, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, Tourism Commission, the Home Affairs Department, the Information Services Department, the Social Welfare Department and the LCSD.

Ends/Monday, December 9, 2013
Issued at HKT 22:16


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