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Inter-departmental efforts to prevent avian flu reviewed

Inter-departmental efforts to prevent avian flu reviewed

The Centre for Health protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) has been notified by the Guangdong Province Health Department that there was no human case of avian influenza and SARS in the province.

The remark was made by Consultant (Community Medicine) of the CHP, Dr Thomas Tsang after he chaired an inter-departmental meeting on avian influenza today (January 22).

Dr Tsang said even though there was no human case of avian flu in Hong Kong and Guangdong Province, recent reports of avian flu cases in other places of the Mainland and overseas as well as the detection of H5N1 virus in local wild birds had indicated that the disease remained a threat to our community.

He called for concerted effort from the community to guard against avian flu in Hong Kong .

"Members of the public should strictly observe personal and environmental hygiene, and stay away from dead birds, avoid contact with wild birds and live poultry and their droppings.

"They are also urged not to feed or release wild birds, and surrender their pet birds to Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department's animal management centres for disposal if they no longer want to keep pet birds," he said.

 Dr Tsang said following the activation of the Alert Response Level of the Government's Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Plan in January 2005, preventive measures had been put in place in the disease surveillance system and poultry control measures at farms, markets and ports.

He said additional measures would be implemented in the event of confirmed poultry outbreak or human cases of avian flu in Hong Kong .

DH and the Hospital Authority have been working closely on infection control measures, including formulation of infection control guidelines and training of healthcare workers and carers.

At the community level, the government has widely publicized messages of avian flu/pandemic influenza prevention via different channels, such as TV, radio, internet, outreach programmes, seminars and publicity materials.

"The government will continue to adopt an intersectoral and multidisciplinary approach to gear up community efforts in pandemic influenza preparedness through responsive risk communication," Dr Tsang said.

He added that the government would continue to maintain close liaison with the World Health Organization and the Mainland authority to obtain the latest information about the global and regional situation.

Hong Kong signed the Cooperation Agreements on response Mechanism for Public Health Emergencies with the Mainland Ministry of Health and Macao in October 2005 and with Guangdong and Macao health departments in June 2006.

Meanwhile, a notification agreement was signed with the Ministry of Agriculture on animal diseases, including avian flu. MOA will notify Hong Kong of outbreaks of avian flu among poultry and other major animal diseases.

With many people travelling overseas during the Lunar New Year holiday, Dr Tsang called on people who planned to go to areas with avian flu cases to be extra vigilant and observe good personal hygiene to prevent infection.  

Today's meeting was attended by representatives from the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau, DH, HA, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

Ends/Monday, January 22, 2007