Health officials in Hong Kong are investigating the first imported human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Hong Kong this year.

Influenza A (H7N9) virus/CDC
Influenza A (H7N9) virus/CDC

This has prompted health officials to urge the public to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel.

“Due to the seasonal pattern, our risk assessment shows that the activity of avian influenza viruses is expected to remain at a high level in winter months. In view of this sporadic case, the public, particularly travelers and those who may visit the Mainland, should heighten vigilance. Do not visit poultry markets and farms. Avoid poultry contact,” Dr Leung said at a briefing this evening.

The male patient, aged 60 with good past health, lives and works in Suzhou, Jiangsu. He came to Hong Kong on February 5 and reported onset of fever, chills, rigor, cough and shortness of breath since February 8. He consulted a private doctor on February 10 and 11 who referred him to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital (PYNEH) for management on February 11. Upon admission and laboratory testing by PYNEH, his specimen collected on February 12 preliminarily tested negative for influenza A. He was discharged on February 15. Clinical diagnosis was pneumonia and he has been in stable condition all along.

The man subsequently sought advice from another private doctor on February 18 and 22. Further testing by the CHP’s Public Health Laboratory Services Branch on his specimens taken on February 12 returned a result that was today confirmed as being positive for avian influenza A(H7N9) virus. He has been admitted to the Hospital Authority Infectious Disease Centre (HAIDC) in Princess Margaret Hospital today for further management.

The patient visited a wet market near his residence in Suzhou in which he reported no poultry contact.

Initial inquiries revealed the patient’s afebrile son with sore throat since February 22, who has also been admitted to the HAIDC for observation this evening. To date, his wife has remained asymptomatic while tracing of the patient’s other close contacts in Hong Kong is ongoing.

This is the 14th imported H7N9 avian influenza case reported in Hong Kong since 2013.