Hong Kong’s Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, said that a 36-year-old Indonesian domestic helper had been taken ill after travelling to Shenzhen on the mainland and buying, slaughtering and eating a chicken. He added that tests had confirmed H7N9, and the patient was in a critical condition at Hong Kong’s Queen Mary Hospital.
“Her home contacts will be admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital for isolation and testing,” he added.
Dr Wing-man said Hong Kong had escalated its influenza pandemic response level to serious, and had informed mainland authorities and the World Health Organisation. “We have an understanding with the relevant department of the Central People’s Government that we will suspend the import of live chickens from the three registered chicken farms in Shenzhen,” he said.
He added that measures would also be taken to ensure controls on live poultry in Hong Kong were sufficient.
“The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department will ensure strict adherence to biosafety measures and cleansing arrangement by the live chicken stalls in the markets,” he said. “The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department will conduct visits to all local chicken farms and ensure the infection control measures in the poultry wholesale market [are in place].”
The announcement comes days after another case of H7N9 was reported on mainland China. According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China, a 57-year-old man from Zhejiang tested positive for the disease and was in a critical condition in hospital. Earlier last month, a three-year-old boy in the Guangdong Province and a 64-year-old woman in Zhejiang were admitted to hospital with the virus.
The case in Hong Kong brings the total number of H7N9 cases to 140. The majority of these have been on China’s mainland, concentrated in Zhejiang, Shanghai and Jiangsu, although one person fell ill in Taiwan after travelling to China.
China first identified avian influenza H7N9 in February and the outbreak reached its peak in April, with 94 cases confirmed during the month. Since May, infection rates have slowed considerably and there were no cases recorded in August and September. However, with two confirmed cases in October and three in November, there are concerns that the country could experience a second cluster of outbreaks.