Public urged to stay alert against avian influenza

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (January 19) urged the public to stay alert against the possible increasing activity of avian influenza in winter and reminded them to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel especially in the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays.

     "Based on the seasonal pattern, the activity of avian influenza viruses is expected to rise in winter. Whether locally or outside Hong Kong, the public should avoid contact with poultry, birds and their droppings and should not visit live poultry markets and farms to protect themselves from avian influenza," a spokesman for the CHP said.

     Since October 2017, two human cases of avian influenza A (H7N9) infections and two other human cases of avian influenza A(H5N6) infections have been reported in the Mainland. Outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5) in birds and poultry have also occurred in many countries in the past few months.

     "Apart from avoiding contact with poultry and visits to wet market, live poultry markets or farms, travellers to the Mainland or other affected areas must be alert to the presence of backyard poultry when visiting relatives and friends. They should also avoid purchasing live or freshly slaughtered poultry," the spokesman reminded.

     Travellers returning from affected areas should consult a doctor promptly if symptoms develop, and inform the doctor of their travel history for prompt diagnosis and treatment of potential diseases. It is essential to tell the doctor if they have seen any live poultry during travel, which may imply possible exposure to contaminated environments. This will enable the doctor to assess the possibility of avian influenza and arrange necessary investigations and appropriate treatment in a timely manner.

     Locally, in response to traces of H5N6 virus detected in an environmental sample and two skin swabs of a chilled duck from a fresh provision shop in Wan Chai last week, the CHP has stepped up surveillance for possible human cases and letters were sent to doctors urging them to report any suspected cases.

     Meanwhile, people handling chilled poultry or poultry carcasses are reminded to observe strict personal and hand hygiene. They should never touch the mouth, nose, or eyes when handling any poultry, poultry products or eggs. Afterwards, they must wash hands thoroughly with liquid soap and water. 

     If handling live poultry, poultry products or eggs, the public should maintain strict personal, hand, food and environmental hygiene and take heed of the advice below:
  • Avoid touching poultry, birds, animals or their droppings;
  • When buying live chickens, do not touch them and their droppings. Do not blow at their bottoms. Wash eggs with detergent if soiled with faecal matter and cook and consume the eggs 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; and
  • Clean thoroughly all working surfaces, utensils and equipment that have been used for handling poultry products or eggs. Use separate knives and chopping boards to handle raw food and ready-to-eat food. Keep raw poultry meat in well covered container and store it in the lower compartment of refrigerator while keep ready-to-eat and cooked food in the upper compartment to avoid cross-contamination.
     For more information, the public may visit the CHP's page on avian influenza and the weekly Avian Influenza Report.

Ends/Friday, January 19, 2018
Issued at HKT 17:10