The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) is today (January 29) investigating a confirmed human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Hong Kong affecting a man aged 75.
The patient, with multiple underlying illnesses, lived in Tin Shui Wai. He developed cough with sputum in Shenzhen on January 26 and attended the Accident and Emergency Department of Tuen Mun Hospital (TMH) last night (January 28) for fever and shortness of breath. He was subsequently transferred to the isolation ward. His condition deteriorated and he passed away this morning.
His nasopharyngeal aspirate was positive for avian influenza A(H7) virus upon preliminary laboratory testing by TMH and was confirmed as H7N9 upon further testing by the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Services Branch.
Initial epidemiological investigations by the CHP revealed that the patient had travelled alone to Baoan, Shenzhen, from January 20 to 26 and had stayed in his relative's residence close to a live poultry market.
The patient's five home contacts in Hong Kong (regarded as close contacts) have remained asymptomatic. They will be admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital for testing and observation.
Further investigations into his travel and exposure history are ongoing, in parallel with tracing of other contacts of the patient, including four patients who stayed in the same cubicle with the patient in TMH, healthcare workers of TMH and the ambulance service, who will be put under medical surveillance.
The CHP will liaise with relevant Mainland health authority to follow-up the patient's contacts during his stay in Shenzhen.
The case has been referred to the Coroner for investigation.
"The Serious Response Level under the Government's Preparedness Plan for Influenza Pandemic remains activated and the CHP's follow-up actions are in full swing," a spokesman for the DH remarked.
This is the fourth confirmed human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Hong Kong. The CHP will notify the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Health and Family Planning Commission as well as health and quarantine authorities of Guangdong and Macao.
Locally, enhanced surveillance of suspected cases in public and private hospitals is underway. The CHP will continue to maintain liaison with the WHO, the Mainland and overseas health authorities to monitor the latest developments. Local surveillance activities will be modified upon the WHO's recommendations.
"In view of human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) confirmed in Hong Kong and multiple cases reported in the Mainland, the activity of the virus is expected to be higher in the winter season. Those planning to travel outside Hong Kong during Lunar New Year should maintain good personal, environmental and food hygiene at all times," the spokesman urged.
"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. Healthcare 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.
As of 4pm today, the CHP's hotline (2125 1111) for public enquiries have received 151 calls since the first confirmed human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Hong Kong.
Members of the public should remain vigilant and take heed of the preventive advice against avian influenza below:
* Do not visit live poultry markets. Avoid contact with poultry, birds and their droppings. If contact has been made, thoroughly wash hands with soap;
* 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/Wednesday, January 29, 2014