CHP investigates confirmed human case of avian influenza A(H7N9)

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is today (December 30) investigating a confirmed human case of of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Hong Kong, and again urged the public to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel.    

      The male patient, aged 70 with underlying illnesses, claimed to have developed fever, cough with sputum, shortness of breath, vomiting and diarrhoea since December 26. He attended the Accident and Emergency Department of United Christian Hospital (UCH) on December 27 and was admitted to isolation ward on December 28.

      His sputum specimen collected on December 28 was received and confirmed yesterday (December 29) to be positive for influenza A(H7N9) virus by the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Services Branch (PHLSB). The patient is now in stable condition and has been transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital for further management.

    The patient travelled to Shenzhen and Zhongshan since December 13 and returned to Hong Kong via Lo Wu on December 16. He claimed that he came across mobile stalls selling live poultry in Zhongshan.

      In Hong Kong, the patient recalled having purchased a chilled chicken from a shop near a wet market in Kwun Tong on December 22 but no live poultry was sold in the shop. According to the patient, he did not enter the wet market. 

     The source of infection is still under investigation.

     His close contacts have remained asymptomatic so far and have been put under medical surveillance. Tracing of his other contacts in Hong Kong is underway.

     "The case will be notified to the World Health Organization and the national, Guangdong and Macau health authorities. We are communicating with the Mainland authority to follow up the patient's exposure and movements in the Mainland," a spokesman for the CHP said.
     "Our epidemiological investigations are ongoing. Since the patient had purchased a chilled chicken near a wet market in Kwun Tong, as a precautionary measure, we are working closely with the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to assess and investigate the case," the spokesman said.  

    Letters to doctors, hospitals, schools and institutions will be issued to alert them to the latest situation.

    "Locally, the first imported human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in this winter was recently detected. The neighbouring Guangdong and Macau also reported their first human H7N9 cases in this winter. The activity of avian influenza is expected to increase in winter based on its seasonal pattern.

      "The public should avoid touching birds, poultry or their droppings and visiting poultry markets or farms during travel, particularly in the upcoming New Year holidays. If feeling unwell such as having fever or cough, wear a mask and seek medical advice at once. Travellers returning from affected areas should consult doctors promptly if symptoms develop and let them know their travel history," the spokesman added.

     The CHP's Port Health Office conducts health surveillance measures at all boundary control points. Thermal imaging systems are in place for body temperature checks on inbound travellers. Suspected cases will be immediately referred to public hospitals for follow-up.

     The display of posters and broadcasting of health messages in departure and arrival halls as health education for travellers is underway. The travel industry and other stakeholders are regularly updated on the latest information.

     The public should maintain strict personal, hand, food and environmental hygiene and take heed of advice below while handling poultry:
  • When handling live chickens, do not touch them or their droppings. Do not blow at their bottoms. Wash eggs with detergent if soiled with faecal matter and cook and consume them immediately. Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling chickens and eggs;
  • Eggs should be cooked well until the white and yolk become firm. Do not eat raw eggs or dip cooked food into any sauce with raw eggs. Poultry should be cooked thoroughly. If there is pinkish juice running from the cooked poultry or the middle part of its bone is still red, the poultry should be cooked again until fully done;
  • Wash hands frequently, especially before touching the mouth, nose or eyes, before handling food or eating, and after going to toilet, touching public installations or equipment such as escalator handrails, elevator control panels or door knobs, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing; and
  • Wear a mask if fever or respiratory symptoms develop, going to a hospital or clinic, or while taking caring of patients with fever or respiratory symptoms.

     The public may visit the CHP's pages for more information: the avian influenza page, the weekly Avian Influenza Report, global statistics and affected areas of avian influenza, the Facebook Page and the YouTube Channel.

Ends/Friday, December 30, 2016
Issued at HKT 0:47