CHP confirms first case of bird flu in Hong Kong this winter

Bird flu Hong Kong

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) confirmed yesterday (December 20) that a 75-year-old man has tested positive for bird flu in Hong Kong.

The man, who has underlying illnesses, travelled to Changping in Dongguan on November 28. He sought medical assistance at a hospital there after feeling ill on December 8 and returned to Hong Kong via Lo Wu on December 9. Upon arrival, he was taken directly to North District Hospital suffering from a cough, shortness of breath, runny nose and chest discomfort.

According to the CHP, the man initially tested positive for enterovirus/rhinovirus however tests for influenza came back negative. He subsequently developed a fever on December 17 and was diagnosed with pneumonia, before testing positive for influenza A(H7N9) on December 19.

The patient, who is reportedly in a serious condition, initially denied any recent exposure to poultry, however has apparently since revealed that he visited a wet market whilst in Dongguan, where he bought a dressed chicken.

In a statement yesterday, the CHP said that contact tracing had identified 51 close contacts so far, including the patient's home contacts plus relevant in-patients and healthcare workers (HCWs) of North District Hospital.

The statement went on to say that, "among them, an HCW with mild upper respiratory symptoms in stable condition has been admitted for observation, pending laboratory testing. The others have remained asymptomatic. They will be given antiviral prophylaxis with oseltamivir (Tamiflu) for five days, advised to wear a mask and put under medical surveillance for 10 days since their last exposure to the patient.

Other contacts are personnel involved upon the patient's arrival in Hong Kong and ambulance personnel in patient transfer. All have remained asymptomatic. They will be advised to wear a mask and will be put under medical surveillance for 10 days since their last exposure to the patient. For those in-patients with underlying illnesses or higher risk of complications, as a precautionary measure, they will also be given Tamiflu for five days, advised to wear a mask and put under medical surveillance for 10 days since their last exposure, even if they have been identified as other contacts."

This latest news comes just two weeks after the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (ACFD) confirmed that a number of samples of faecal droppings taken from Mai Po Nature Reserve had tested positive for the H5N6 strain of avian influenza.

In an advisory statement, a spokesperson for the AFCD said that "people should avoid contact with wild birds and live poultry and their droppings," and should "clean their hands thoroughly after coming into contact with them."

The term 'avian influenza' refers to viruses that mainly affect birds and poultry, such as chickens or ducks. Symptoms of avian influenza in humans include conjunctivitis, fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches and severe respiratory illness. The incubation period ranges from 7 to 10 days and transmission is usually attributed to close contact with infected birds and poultry (live or dead) or their droppings.

Anyone coming across any suspicious, sick or dead birds, should call 1823 to report the incident for further investigation.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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