Site of recent H7N9 infections
A couple of reports from Hong Kong’s Centre For Health Protection this morning regarding the emergent H7N9 virus in China. Both illustrate how seriously Hong Kong is taking this newly identified virus.
First, some comments made by Hong Kong’s Secretary for Food and Health (SHF), Dr Ko Wing-man, followed by a statement on the surveillance efforts underway in Hong Kong.
Based on the second report, Hong Kong has upgraded their `Alert Response Level under the Government's Preparedness Plan for Influenza Pandemic 2012 is activated and that relevant surveillance and control measures have been enhanced.’
The two statements (bolding mine).
Following is the transcript of remarks made by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, after officiating at a public function this afternoon (April 2):
Reporter: (On the outbreak of human cases of Influenza A (H7N9) on the Mainland.)
Secretary for Food and Health: In the morning of March 31, we received notification (from the National Health and Family Planning Commission) of three cases of Influenza A (H7N9) affecting three persons in Shanghai and Anhui in the Mainland. The two patients in Shanghai have passed away and the other patient in Anhui is still receiving intensive medical treatment in Nanjing. We are concerned about these reports because, firstly, two of the three patients have already died and hence superficially the death rate is quite high. Secondly, there is no epidemiological linkage among the three reported cases which means that the three patients might have contracted the illness through different sources. This will have an implication as to whether there is a spreading of this new H7N9 virus among poultry in the Mainland.
Reporter: (On the enhanced surveillance and control measures in Hong Kong.)
Secretary for Food and Health: I convened an urgent meeting this morning with the Centre for Health Protection (of the Department of Health), the Hospital Authority, the Centre for Food Safety (of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department), and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (to discuss the enhanced surveillance and control measures in view of the confirmed human cases of Influenza A (H7N9) on the Mainland.) Various measures will be stepped up. Regarding the border control, we will ensure that the temperature measuring arrangement at all entry points to Hong Kong will be strictly adhered to. The infectious control measures in the hospitals will also be stepped up.
Reporter: What do we know of this new virus so far?
Secretary for Food and Health: The Mainland Authority has already uploaded the full gene sequence of this particular H7N9 virus onto the website and our experts in virology are able to have some insights into the properties of the virus. Firstly, it has an element enabling it to be adapted to the human environment and that is why there are human infections. Secondly and luckily, there is no evidence to show that there is drug-resistance (of this virus) to the two commonly used anti-influenza medications, including Tamiflu.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Representatives from the Department of Health (DH) and the Hospital Authority (HA) met today (April 2) to discuss the updated situation of the confirmed human cases of Influenza A (H7N9) in the Mainland and will work together in enhancing the surveillance and control measures for the disease.
Speaking at a media session after the meeting, the Controller of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the DH, Dr Leung Ting-hung, expressed concern on the latest development of the disease in the Mainland.
"The mortality of Influenza A (H7N9) is very high. Although there is no evidence to show human-to-human transmission, the mutation potential of the virus is high. As such, we will not treat the disease lightly," Dr Leung said.
"Doctors are advised to be vigilant and report any suspected cases to the CHP. Health-care workers should exercise appropriate infection control measures at all times. The public should pay particular attention to personal and environmental hygiene and avoid direct contact with animals, birds or poultry," he said, adding that the Alert Response Level under the Government's Preparedness Plan for Influenza Pandemic 2012 is activated and that relevant surveillance and control measures have been enhanced.
Dr Leung also advised travellers especially those returning from Shanghai and Anhui with respiratory symptoms to wear facial masks and seek medical attention and reveal their travel histories to doctors. Health-care professionals should also pay special attention to those travellers who might have contact with birds or poultry in the two places.
The CHP will closely monitor the situation, continue to maintain close liaison with the Mainland health authorities and keep a close eye on the advice from the World Health Organization.
Also speaking at the media session, the Chief Infection Control Officer of the HA, Dr Dominic Tsang, stressed that while working closely with the CHP, the HA has enhanced surveillance for patients with influenza symptoms. The frontline health-care staff of accident and emergency departments will pay special attention to those patients referred by the Port Health Office under the DH, while hospital laboratories will provide full support for timely test services. Visitors to the clinical areas of the public hospitals and clinics will also be advised to wear surgical mask.
The CHP spokesman reminded members of the public to remain vigilant against avian influenza infection and to observe the following measures:
- Avoid direct contact with poultry and birds or their droppings; if contacts have been made, they should wash hands thoroughly with soap and water;
- Poultry and eggs should be thoroughly cooked before eating;
- Wash hands frequently;
- Cover nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing, hold the spit with tissue and put it into covered dustbins;
- Avoid crowded places and contact with sick people with fever;
- Wear a mask when you have respiratory symptoms or need to take care of patients with fever; and
- When you have fever and influenza-like illnesses during a trip or when coming back to Hong Kong, you should consult doctors promptly and reveal your travel history.
For further information on avian influenza, please visit the CHP's website (www.chp.gov.hk).
Ends/Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Issued at HKT 19:48