A 65-year-old mainland woman was in critical condition after being diagnosed with the deadly H7N9 bird flu strain, Guangdong health authorities announced last night.
It comes as Hong Kong lawmakers warned that concerns over bird flu had led to a glut of 100,000 birds at poultry farms in the city as consumers steered clear of buying live birds. They feared that the build-up of birds could in turn heighten the risk of H7N9 infections.
The latest person to test positive to H7N9 in Hong Kong's neighbouring province is a retired woman from Yangjiang , 230 kilometres west of the city. She became the fourth case in the province after a 39-year-old Dongguan man was diagnosed with the strain on Sunday.
He was also in critical condition and a restaurant he dined at was closed for disinfection after it was suspected as being the source of infection.
That followed a week-long shutdown at two wet markets in Shenzhen's Longgang district where H7N9 was discovered during tests on chickens.
On December 2, Hong Kong confirmed its first human case of bird flu when an Indonesian helper became critically ill after a visit to Shenzhen. A Shenzhen resident being treated in Hong Kong became the city's second confirmed case on December 6.
At a Legislative Council committee meeting yesterday, agriculture sector legislator Steven Ho Chun-yin said more than 100,000 chickens of saleable age had accumulated on poultry farms. Ho said people were worried about whether it was safe to buy live chickens.
Dr Thomas Sit Hon-chung, of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, responded: "When the number of chickens exceeds that stated in their licences, we will urge farmers to destroy them."
Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man reiterated that it was not necessary to suspend all imports of live poultry from the mainland, despite calls to do so. Imports from Shenzhen have been banned since December 2.
So far, there have been 142 confirmed cases of H7N9 in humans on the mainland.