Update of human avian influenza in Guangdong and reminder on not bringing game, meat and poultry into Hong Kong

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) is today (March 7) closely monitoring two additional human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Guangdong (GD) notified by the Health and Family Planning Commission of GD Province (GDHFPC), and again urged the public to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel.

Situation in GD

     According to the GDHFPC, the two male patients, aged 62 in Foshan and aged 57 in Jiangmen, were hospitalised for management in critical and serious condition respectively.

     The activity of avian influenza viruses in the Mainland remains high this winter and cases in GD are on the rise. To date, 599 cases have been reported by the Mainland health authorities cumulatively since 2013, with 181 (30 per cent) from GD. In GD, 72 cases (40 per cent) with onsets since November 2014 were reported, including 13 from Shenzhen, eight each in Dongguan and Meizhou, etc (see Attachment for geographical distribution).

     The remaining cases in other areas were from Zhejiang (156 cases), Jiangsu (70 cases), Fujian (58 cases), Shanghai (45 cases), Anhui (24 cases), Hunan (24 cases), Xinjiang (10 cases), Jiangxi (nine cases), Shandong (six cases), Beijing (five cases), Henan (four cases), Guangxi (three cases), Jilin (two cases), Guizhou and Hebei (one case each).

Illegal import of game, meat and poultry

     Apart from avoiding visits to live poultry markets during travel, the DH reminded the public not to bring any game, meat or poultry into Hong Kong without official health certificate issued by the food authority of the place of origin and / or without prior written permission granted by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, which may be an offence under the Imported Game, Meat and Poultry Regulations (Cap 132AK). An offender shall be liable on conviction to a fine of $50,000 and to imprisonment for six months.

     "Enforcement actions are ongoing at boundary control points by relevant departments, including quarantine detector dogs, against returning travellers and incoming trucks bringing raw meat illegally. As raw meat without a proper health certificate can be a health risk, members of the public should strictly observe the regulation," the spokesman said.

Local surveillance

     "Locally, we will remain vigilant and work closely with the World Health Organization and relevant health authorities to monitor the latest developments," the spokesman said.

     Health surveillance measures have been implemented at all boundary control points. Thermal imaging systems are in place for body temperature checks on inbound travellers and the DH also conducts temperature checks by handheld devices. Suspected cases will be immediately referred to public hospitals for follow-up.

     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 are ongoing.

     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;
* 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.

     The public may visit the CHP's pages below for more information:

* The avian influenza page (www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/24244.html);
* The weekly Avian Influenza Report (www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/3879.html);
* Global statistics and affected areas of avian influenza (www.chp.gov.hk/files/pdf/global_statistics_avian_influenza_e.pdf);
* The Facebook Page (www.fb.com/CentreforHealthProtection); and
* The YouTube Channel (www.youtube.com/c/ChpGovHkChannel).

Ends/Saturday, March 7, 2015
Issued at HKT 19:43