Although likely undercounted, China has only reported 9 H5N1 cases to the World Health Organization over the past five years. H5N1 outbreaks are occasionally reported in China’s poultry, but H7N9, H10N8, and the upstart H5N6 virus have been viewed with more urgency the past couple of years.
As illustrated by its sudden resurgence in Egypt this winter, H5N1 remains a legitimate threat, and one should never ignore its ability to stage a comeback.
While one case is far cry from signaling a trend, today Jiangsu Province has notified Hong Kong’s CHP of a recent H5N1 case.
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) today (January 28) received notification from the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) of a human case of avian influenza A(H5N1) affecting a woman aged 37 in Jiangsu.
According to the information provided by NHFPC, the patient lived in Suzhou with poultry exposure history. She developed fever and cough on January 14, and attended a local hospital on January 15. She is currently in critical condition. Her specimen, which was tested by the relevant authority, was positive to avian influenza A(H5N1).
"Locally, we will remain vigilant and work closely with the World Health Organization and relevant health authorities to monitor the latest developments," a spokesman for the DH said.
All boundary control points have implemented health surveillance measures. Thermal imaging systems are in place for body temperature checks on inbound travellers. Suspected cases will be immediately referred to public hospitals for follow-up. The DH's Port Health Office has enhanced body temperature checks by handheld devices.
Regarding health education for travellers, the display of posters and broadcasting of health messages in departure and arrival halls, environmental health inspection and provision of regular updates to the travel industry and other stakeholders will be enhanced.
Travellers, especially those returning from avian influenza-affected areas with fever or respiratory symptoms, should immediately wear masks, seek medical attention and reveal their travel history to doctors. Healthcare professionals should pay special attention to patients who might have had contact with poultry, birds or their droppings in affected areas.