Although it is still more of a trickle than a flood, reports of five June H7N9 cases on the Mainland - including the first ever reported from Liaoning Province - has Hong Kong's Centre For Health Protection (CHP) watching the situation closely.
While scattered summertime H7N9 cases have been reported in the past - from June through September we normally about 5 cases total (see chart below) - making 5 cases reported over this past week a bit unusual.
Whether an aberration or the start of a trend, Hong Kong's CHP has taken note of this increased activity and is reminding the public to remain vigilant throughout the summer.
CHP closely monitors first human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Liaoning
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) is today (June 17) closely monitoring the first human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Liaoning, and again urged the public to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel.
According to the Health and Family Planning Commission of Liaoning Province, the male patient aged 67 from Shenyang was in stable condition. Close contacts and those with the same exposure were put under medical observation with no abnormalities so far.
"H7N9 has become enzootic in poultry in the Mainland. From January 2015 to April 2016, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, poultry and environmental samples collected from markets in Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Jilin, Shanghai and Zhejiang tested positive for H7N9. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations revealed that positive samples in the Mainland were mainly taken from live bird markets, vendors and some commercial or breeding farms," a spokesman for the CHP said.
"In view of additional human cases reported in the Mainland with detections of human cases in previously unaffected areas in warmer months, as well as the recent local positive sample of faecal droppings of live poultry, the public should remain vigilant. Travellers to the Mainland and other avian influenza-affected areas in the upcoming summer vacation should not visit poultry markets, and should avoid contact with poultry and their droppings," the spokesman added.
From 2013 to date, 767 human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) have been reported by the Mainland health authorities, while since October 2015 to date, 110 have been recorded.
"We will remain vigilant and work closely with the World Health Organization and relevant health authorities to monitor the latest developments," the spokesman said.
The DH's Port Health Office conducts health surveillance measures at all boundary control points. 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 display of posters and broadcast of health messages in departure and arrival halls as health education for travellers is under way. The travel industry and other stakeholders are regularly updated on the latest information.
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. Health-care professionals should pay special attention to patients who might have had contact with poultry, birds or their droppings in affected areas.
The public should remain vigilant and take heed of the advice against avian influenza below:
- Do not visit live poultry markets and farms. Avoid contact with poultry, birds and their droppings;
- If contact has been made, thoroughly wash hands with soap;
- Avoid entering areas where poultry may be slaughtered and contact with surfaces which might be contaminated by droppings of poultry or other animals;
- Poultry and eggs should be thoroughly cooked before eating;
- Wash hands frequently with soap, especially before touching the mouth, nose or eyes, handling food or eating; after going to the toilet or touching public installations or equipment (including escalator handrails, elevator control panels and door knobs); and when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing;
- Cover the nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing, hold the spit with a tissue and put it into a covered dustbin;
- Avoid crowded places and contact with fever patients; and
- Wear masks when respiratory symptoms develop or when taking care of fever patients.