Epidemiological investigation and follow-up actions by CHP on confirmed human case of avian influenza A(H7N9)

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) today (January 30) provided an update on the fourth confirmed human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) affecting a man aged 75.

     "The epidemiological investigations, enhanced disease surveillance, port health measures and health education against avian influenza are all ongoing," a spokesman for the DH said.

     As of 2pm today, 10 close contacts and 74 other contacts have been located.

     Close contacts included:

* Five family members of the patient in Hong Kong; and
* Five patients who stayed in the same cubicle or room with the patient in Tuen Mun Hospital (TMH).

     All of them have remained asymptomatic and their respiratory specimens were all negative for the H7 virus upon preliminary laboratory testing by the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Services Branch (PHLSB). They remain under observation.

     Other contacts included a relevant visitor and health-care workers (HCWs) of TMH and the ambulance service. They remain under medical surveillance. Among them, two TMH HCWs developed non-specific symptoms and their specimens were both negative for H7 upon the PHLSB's preliminary testing.

     "Upon genetic analysis by the PHLSB, genes of the virus from the patient's specimen were determined to be of avian origin. There were no significant differences from H7N9 viruses detected so far in the Mainland and Hong Kong, nor was there evidence of genetic reassortment with genes of human influenza origin or resistance to the antiviral Tamiflu," the spokesman remarked.

     "In view of the expected increase in people movement across the boundary in the upcoming Lunar New Year, further sporadic human cases may be anticipated locally. Those planning to travel outside Hong Kong should maintain good personal, environmental and food hygiene at all times," the spokesman urged.

     As of 4pm today, the CHP's hotline (2125 1111) for public enquiries had received 155 calls since the first confirmed human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Hong Kong.

     "All boundary control points have implemented disease prevention and control measures. Thermal imaging systems are in place for body temperature checks of inbound travellers. Random temperature checks by handheld devices have also been arranged. Suspected cases will be immediately referred to public hospitals for follow-up investigation," the spokesman added.

     Regarding health education for travellers, distribution of pamphlets, display of posters in departure and arrival halls, in-flight public announcements, environmental health inspection and provision of regular updates to the travel industry via meetings and correspondence are all proceeding.

     The spokesman advised travellers, especially those returning from avian influenza-affected areas and provinces with fever or respiratory symptoms, to immediately wear masks, seek medical attention and reveal their travel history to doctors. Health-care professionals should pay special attention to patients who might have had contact with poultry, birds or their droppings in affected areas and provinces.

     "We have enhanced publicity and health education to reinforce health advice on the prevention of avian influenza," the spokesman said.

     Members of the public should remain vigilant and take heed of the preventive advice against avian influenza below:

* Do not visit live poultry markets and farms. Avoid contact with poultry, birds and their droppings. If contact has been made, thoroughly wash hands with soap;
* Avoid entering areas where poultry may be slaughtered, or contact with surfaces which might be contaminated by droppings of poultry or other animals;
* 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 (including escalator handrails, elevator control panels and door knobs); or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing;
* Cover the nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing, hold the spit with a tissue and put it into a covered dustbin;
* Avoid crowded places and contact with fever patients; and
* Wear masks 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 website (www.chp.gov.hk/files/pdf/global_statistics_avian_influenza_e.pdf) for more information on avian influenza-affected areas and provinces.

Ends/Thursday, January 30, 2014
Issued at HKT 18:58