Hong Kong reports its first H7N9 flu case

Hong Kong skyline

The Hong Kong skyline., iStockPhoto

Hong Kong today reported its first case of H7N9 avian flu, in a 36-year-old woman who had traveled to Shenzhen and had slaughtered and eaten a chicken. Meanwhile, mainland China recently confirmed its fifth H7N9 case since October.

The Hong Kong patient is a domestic helper from Indonesia who traveled to Shenzhen in November, bought a chicken at a live-bird market, and slaughtered and ate it, said Ko Wing-man, MBBS, secretary for food and health, according to a Hong Kong government news release. The woman is in critical condition at Queen Mary Hospital, he added.

She became sick Nov 21 and was admitted to Tuen Mun Hospital in Hong Kong on Nov 27. She was transferred to Queen Mary Hospital on Nov 30.

The woman's home contacts are being isolated and tested at Princess Margaret Hospital, Ko said.

The woman is currently on a ventilator, Leung Ting-hung, controller for Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP), said in a video statement accompanying the government news release. He added that a friend traveled with her to the poultry market, but officials do not know where the friend is or whether the friend is from mainland China or Hong Kong.

Four of the patient's family members have had respiratory symptoms and are among those in isolation at Princess Margaret Hospital, Leung said.

Elevated alert level

In response to the case, the Hong Kong government has escalated the response level of its pandemic flu preparedness plan from "alert" to "serious," Ko said. In addition, the Hospital Authority will strengthen infection control measures, including limiting visiting hours.

Hong Kong has also suspended the importation of poultry from Shenzhen's three registered poultry farms.

The CHP will continue to work on contact tracing, Ko said. He added that results of the testing on the case-patient's close contacts may be available as early as tomorrow. In addition, government agencies will ensure strict adherence to biosafety measures at live-bird markets and chicken farms in Hong Kong.

Case on Chinese mainland

Elsewhere, a 57-year-old man from Zhejiang province is infected with H7N9 flu, according to a Nov 29 report from Xinhua, China's state news agency. The case is the country's fifth this autumn after it logged 134 from spring through August.

The man tested positive for H7N9 on Nov 27 after presenting to a Zhejiang University hospital for fever treatment, according to provincial health authorities. He then suffered respiratory failure and shock and is in critical condition, hospital officials said.

This is the third case reported in November in China. The others were confirmed Nov 4 in Zhejiang province and Nov 5 in southern Guangdong province. As of Oct 25, 45 of the H7N9 cases have proved fatal, according to World Health Organization statistics.

Market closure plans

In related news, Shanghai will suspend trading of live poultry from Jan 31, 2014, the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, through Apr 30 to prevent the spread of H7N9, Xinhua reported today.

The suspension will continue annually for 5 years, pending evaluation from officials, the story said. The news was released in a joint statement by the Shanghai Agricultural Commission and the Shanghai Commerce Commission.

All wholesale and retail markets will be forbidden to sell poultry, and violators will face fines of about $1,600 to $4,900. Poultry from outside Shanghai will be shipped to designated slaughterhouses and cannot enter the local market directly, the statement said.

In April of this year, all of Shanghai's live-poultry markets were shut down to stem H7N9 transmission. The ban, which affected about 110 poultry markets, was lifted in June.

See also:

Dec 2 Hong Kong government news release and video

Dec 3 transcript of Dr Ko's statement on the case

Nov 28 Xinhua story

Dec 2 Xinhua report

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