Hong Kong stepping up bird flu checks, says health minister

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 April, 2013, 3:11pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 April, 2013, 9:07pm

The health minister said on Wednesday bird flu checks would be increased, but there was no need to raise Hong Kong’s pandemic response level even after four new cases of human bird flu infection were reported on Tuesday.

The four recent cases of human H7N9 avian infection in Jiansu province, combined with two in Shanghai and one in Anhui reported earlier bring the total to seven. The two people in Shanghai died as a result of their infections, the other five are in critical condition in hospital.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said Hong Kong health officials were monitoring the situation closely and were stepping up border checks on imported live chickens and visitors to Hong Kong.

Ko said there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus so far, and no connection had been found between the patients infected.

However, “we can be sure that this virus widely exists in poultry or some other animals in eastern China, leading to many different patients being infected from different sources,” he said during a radio interview on Wednesday morning.

Responding to a recent University of Hong Kong study that found that infrared body temperature screening at border crossings was ineffective in identifying people with fever, Ko said more visitors would now undergo a second temperature screening and that he was considering whether or not it was helpful to resume requiring visitors to fill in health declaration forms.

Though Tamiflu has been found to be an effective medication in treating patients infected with the H7N9 virus, Ko said there was no need for the public to buy the medicine without a doctor’s prescription.