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Suspected imported avian flu case investigated in Hong Kong child

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is investigating a suspected imported human case of avian influenza A(H7) in Hong Kong, and again urged the public to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel.

Hong Kong/CIA

The boy, aged 10 with good past health, developed fever, cough and vomiting on January 8. He attended the Accident and Emergency Department of North Lantau Hospital in the past two days and was referred to Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) for admission yesterday. The patient has been in stable condition all along. He was discharged this afternoon but has been re-admitted to hospital for isolation tonight.

His nasopharyngeal aspirate specimen was preliminarily tested positive for influenza A(H7) virus by PMH tonight. Further test by the CHP’s Public Health Laboratory Services Branch is underway.

Inquiries revealed that the patient and his family travelled to Foshan, Guangdong between December 31, 2016 and January 3, 2017. During their brief stay in the Mainland, the patient visited a relative’s home where a few live chickens were kept but he denied direct contact with these chickens. The family had also visited a market there but denied entry into its poultry section.

The patient’s close contacts have remained asymptomatic so far and have been put under medical surveillance. Tracing of his other contacts in Hong Kong is underway.

“The case has been reported to Guangdong and Macau health authorities. We are communicating with the Mainland authority to follow up the patient’s exposure and movements in the Mainland. Based on information available thus far, it is classified as an imported case. Epidemiological investigations are ongoing,” a spokesman for the CHP said.

“Locally, three imported human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) were recorded in the past month. The activity of avian influenza is expected to increase in winter based on its seasonal pattern. Letters to doctors, hospitals, schools and institutions will be issued to alert them to the latest situation, ” a spokesman for the CHP added.

“We strongly urge the public to avoid touching birds, poultry or their droppings and visiting poultry markets or farms during travel, particularly in the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays. If feeling unwell such as having fever or cough, wear a mask and seek medical advice at once. Travellers returning from affected areas should consult doctors promptly if symptoms develop and let them know their travel history for prompt diagnosis and treatment,” the spokesman said.