We’ve more comments this morning from Hong Kong’s Secretary of Food and Health (SFH) Dr Ko Wing-man on their concerns over the H7N9 virus, along with a pair of letters that have been sent out by the Centre for Health Protection to local doctors.
Yesterday we looked at Hong Kong’s Framework of Government’s Preparedness Plan for Influenza Pandemic and the activation of their lowest `ALERT’ response level.
First stop, some remarks made by the SFH, where we learn that airport surveillance efforts now include infrared temperature scanning of arriving passengers.
Following is the transcript of remarks made by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, before attending a media programme this morning (April 3):
Reporter: Do you see there is a need right now to step up the infection control measures at the border? Do you want to introduce the health declaration requirement?
Secretary for Food and Health: I visited the Lo Wu border this morning to get to understand the operation of the body temperature checking mechanism at the immigration control point. We noticed that there are comments about the accuracy of the infrared whole-body temperature scanning devices, saying that people with a lower degree of fever might not be detected by this device. However, this is a more efficient method when facing a high flow of travellers. Hence, we would (maintain the existing arrangement) and also carry out (random) temperature checks (with handheld devices) on some passengers.
Reporter: Are you concerned that there is a high risk that the actual number of cases in the Mainland is actually more than what is reported? How can you ensure that chickens imported to Hong Kong are all safe?
Secretary for Food and Health: We are very concerned about the situation of human cases of Influenza A (H7N9) in the eastern part of the Mainland, mainly because of the high mortality and the seriousness of the disease. Secondly, the seven patients concerned do not have any epidemiological linkage, meaning that they might have contracted the illness separately in the community. This also means that the virus might be actually circulating widely among wild animals or poultry.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Wednesday, April 3, 2013
While only 7 confirmed (and two suspected) cases of H7N9 have been reported in mainland China, there continue to be news stories, and social media `chatter’ suggesting there are more suspected cases under investigation.
The concern is, that as officials ramp up surveillance and testing, more cases may come to light.
Hong Kong’s CHP has sent two letters out to local doctors, urging their vigilance in detecting, and reporting, suspected cases.
In addition, I would like to urge you to pay special attention to those who presented with influenza like illness and had history of travel to Anhui and Shanghai within the incubation period (i.e. 7 days before onset of symptoms).
The second letter, Update on the Human Cases of Avian Influenza (H7N9), is dated April 3rd. Excerpts below:
3 April, 2013
Update on the Human Cases of Avian Influenza (H7N9)
Further to our letter to you dated 1 April, 2013, please kindly be informed that four additional confirmed human cases of avian influenza (H7N9) were reported by the Jiangsu Health Department on April 2, 2013,
These four cases involved one man and three women, aged from 32 and 83, all of them are currently in critical condition. Laboratory tests on the patients' specimens by the Mainland health authorities yielded positive results for H7N9.
According to the Jiangsu Health Department, the 45-year-old female patient is a poultry worker and no epidemiological links were identified among the four cases at this stage. They presented with respiratory tract infection with progression to severe pneumonia. So far, the 167 close contacts of the four patients are asymptomatic.
Influenza A (H7) is a statutorily notifiable infectious disease in Hong Kong. So far, no human cases of avian influenza (H7N9) were recorded in Hong Kong.
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) is maintaining close liaison with World Health Organisation and the Mainland health authorities to obtain more information on the cases and will update you with the latest information.
While the existing reporting criteria remains unchanged, in addition to Anhui Province and Shanghai, I would like to urge you to pay special attention to those who presented with influenza like illness and had history of travel to Jiangsu Province within the incubation period (i.e. 7 days before onset of symptoms).
Please kindly be reminded that the list of affected areas is regularly uploaded to the CHP website (http://www.chp.gov.hk/files/pdf/global_statis tics_avian_influenza_e.pdf).
Hong Kong’s CHP continues to impress in its aggressive public health response and its willingness to openly
discuss emerging disease threats with the public.