Earlier today, in Hong Kong Ramps Up Biosecurity Against H7N9, we looked at a report on an interdepartmental meeting on H7N9 that focused primarily on testing, and protecting, local poultry from the H7N9 virus.
Hong Kong's CHP has now published the following, far more detailed, account of today's meeting which has more emphasis on the human health threats posed by H7N9, and HPAI H5 viruses, including H5N6 on the mainland.With only limited visibility of what is going on with avian flu on the mainland, we look to the reactions and responses mounted by Macao and Hong Kong in order to gauge the severity of the the threat. While clearly not in panic mode, there's little doubt that their concerns are elevated, and as Dr. Ko Wing-man states, the `situation is abnormal'.
Government holds inter-departmental meeting to discuss latest situation of avian influenza (with photos)The Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, today (February 15) convened an inter-departmental meeting to discuss the latest situation of the global avian influenza (AI) outbreak as well as strategies and measures to step up precaution against AI in Hong Kong.
"Since winter last year, there have been outbreaks of AI, involving H5N6 and H5N8 viruses, in farms around the world. The number of human H7N9 cases reported in the Mainland has also hugely increased since the end of last year, with 357 cases recorded since last November. The number of cases in this wave so far has been much higher than that in the same period last winter. This shows that the situation is abnormal. Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan also found cases imported from Guangdong. In respect of avian influenza A (H5N6), 16 human cases occurred in the Mainland so far, of which 11 cases were reported last year," Dr Ko said.
At the meeting, Dr Ko and representatives of relevant departments, including the Department of Health (DH), the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) and the Hospital Authority (HA) reviewed the existing prevention and control measures and discussed about further stepping up the measures.
"In view of the acute situation of the AI outbreak around the world and in neighbouring areas, the AI risk has likewise increased in Hong Kong. The Government must heighten its vigilance and be well-prepared so as to prevent AI epidemic from occurring in Hong Kong. It was known that three patients of the four imported human cases of avian influenza A (H7N9) since winter last year had history of exposure to live poultry or visited places with live poultry. This shows that the vigilance of Hong Kong people against AI should be heightened. Moreover, people should not bring in live or undercooked poultry from outside Hong Kong.
"The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the DH, AFCD, FEHD and HA have already implemented a series of surveillance, prevention and control measures. They have been monitoring the latest development so that relevant strategies can be adjusted appropriately. For example, in order to minimise the risk of AI outbreak and to ensure the AI vaccine used in local chicken farms can provide sufficient protection, a new bivalent vaccine has been introduced in local chicken farms since last November. The new vaccine can provide effective protection against multi-clades of H5 viruses, including the circulating H5N1, H5N6 and H5N8 viruses," he said
On other measures, the CHP will issue letters to all doctors in Hong Kong, reminding them to beware of cases of AI. Regarding health surveillance measures at boundary control points by the Port Health Office, 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 underway. The travel industry and other stakeholders are regularly updated on the latest information.
The HA Central Committee on Infectious Diseases and Emergency Responses held an ad hoc meeting this morning to conduct risk assessment in view of the latest situation of AI worldwide. Frontline healthcare personnel are reminded to stay vigilant. Currently, rapid virus test service is available seven days a week and eH7 electronic reporting platform has been activated to ensure early identification, notification and testing of suspected cases.
Members of the public who are visiting the public hospitals and clinics are reminded to put on surgical masks when entering the clinical areas and perform hand hygiene before and after visiting patients. Patients are requested to inform healthcare staff their travel and poultry contact history to facilitate risk assessment of AI by healthcare personnel.
Poultry farm inspections are conducted by AFCD officers at least once a week to monitor the hygiene condition and health of the poultry, and ensure the licensing conditions are observed. In addition, AFCD will soon substantially increase the number of surprise inspections to local chicken farms and pet bird shops, and the number of environmental samples collected in chicken farms for testing. Seminars for chicken farm operators will be organised in the coming two weeks to enhance the training of workers and to remind them to be vigilant, and strictly implement all biosecurity measures.
FEHD will continue surveillance on imported live poultry to ensure that only poultry passing the AI test would be released to the market for sale. FEHD will also carry out a special inspection on public market stalls and fresh provision shops selling live poultry this week. Letters will be issued to remind operators again to adhere to the AI preventive measures. FEHD is planning to introduce a rapid AI test for faecal swabs and drinking water samples collected from these retail outlets soon in order to strengthen testing of the environmental samples. At the same time, FEHD will jointly with the Customs and Excise Department step up interception against illegal import of poultry meat and eggs at boundary control points.
The Government urges the public to avoid visiting wet markets, poultry markets or farms when travelling to the Mainland or other affected areas. They should be alert to the presence of backyard poultry when visiting relatives and friends, and also avoid purchase of live or freshly slaughtered poultry and touching poultry/birds or their droppings. The public should strictly observe personal and hand hygiene when visiting any place with live poultry.
Travellers returning from affected areas should consult a doctor promptly if symptoms develop, and inform the doctor of their travel history for prompt diagnosis and treatment. It is essential to tell the doctor if they have seen any live poultry during travel, which may imply possible exposure to contaminated environments. This will enable the doctor to assess the possibility of AI and arrange necessary investigations and appropriate treatment in a timely manner.Ends/Wednesday, February 15, 2017Issued at HKT 22:04