As the WHO chart below illustrates, H7N9 cases are nearly absent during the summer, remain sporadic during the fall, and only really start in earnest in December.
When you add in the delays in reporting we often see out of China, the dearth of case reports thus far this fall (n=2), isn't all that unusual.
Today, however, Hong Kong's CHP has been notified of a case in neighboring Guangdong Province, their first of this winter season.
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) today (December 9) received notification of an additional human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) from the Health and Family Planning Commission of Guangdong Province, and again urged the public to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel.
The male patient aged 81 from Meizhou is the first human case of H7N9 reported in Guangdong in this winter.
"Based on the seasonal pattern of avian influenza viruses, their activity in the Mainland is expected to increase in winter. The public should avoid contact with poultry, birds and their droppings and should not visit live poultry markets and farms to prevent avian influenza, particularly during travel in the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays," a spokesman for the CHP said.
From 2013 to date, 778 human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) have been reported by the Mainland health authorities.
"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 CHP'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 broadcasting 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. Healthcare 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;The public may visit the CHP's pages for more information: the avian influenza page, the weekly Avian Influenza Report, global statistics and affected areas of avian influenza, the Facebook Page and the YouTube Channel.
• 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.Ends/Friday, December 9, 2016Issued at HKT 10:32
It will take a few months before we know if last year's downward trend in H7N9 cases is repeated this winter, or if this past year's uptick in H5N6 cases continues.