SFH convenes meeting to discuss avian influenza (with photo)

     With the first imported human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) this year being confirmed yesterday, the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, today (February 24) convened an inter-departmental meeting to assess the risk faced by Hong Kong and to review the existing disease prevention mechanism.

     At the meeting, the participants unanimously considered that the existing disease prevention measures are effective. As this imported case is a sporadic one and thus far none of the patient's close contacts had developed related symptoms, the meeting decided that the existing Alert Response Level set out in the Preparedness Plan for Influenza Pandemic should remain unchanged.

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) will continue to follow up on the people who have had contact with the patient. They will also issue letters to doctors in Hong Kong and remind them again to be vigilant about patients with symptoms of respiratory infection and who have visited markets at affected places or have had exposure to poultry.

     The Central Committee for Infectious Diseases and Emergency Response of the Hospital Authority (HA) also held an ad hoc meeting this morning with the representatives of the CHP to review the current clinical guidelines and infection control measures in handling suspected and confirmed human cases of avian influenza in public hospitals. Front-line staff have been reminded again to remain vigilant in strengthening the monitoring of symptomatic patients with related travel and contact history.

     No abnormality was detected during the regular inspections to local farms and testing on chicken samples conducted by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD). Given that two cases of chicken carcasses found at the seaside recently were confirmed to be H5N6 positive, the AFCD will strengthen the testing on chicken carcasses in local farms.

     The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) has been closely monitoring the hygienic conditions of public markets and has stepped up inspections of stalls selling live poultry to ensure strict compliance by the stall operators with the requirements of no overnight stocking of live poultry and daily cleaning of the stalls. The market cleaning contractors will also clean the public areas of public markets and carry out cleaning and thorough disinfection of live poultry stalls every day.

     "We anticipate that there may be further sporadic avian influenza cases on the Mainland and in our neighbouring areas, and Hong Kong may have imported cases of avian influenza again. Therefore, the Government will conduct risk assessments in accordance with the Preparedness Plan for Influenza Pandemic and the World Health Organization's recommendations as a basis for deciding whether and if so how local prevention and control strategy should be adjusted. In addition, response measures will be further enhanced to get prepared for the risk posed by the winter peak of seasonal influenza," Dr Ko said.

     Attending today's inter-departmental meeting were officials from the Food and Health Bureau, the DH, the AFCD and the FEHD; representatives from the HA; experts; and academics.

Ends/Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Issued at HKT 20:40