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  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 5:22am
H7N9 avian flu
NewsHong Kong

Hong Kong sees first case of H9N2 avian flu in four years

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 7:26pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 December, 2013, 2:55am

An 86-year-old Hongkonger living in Shenzhen has become infected with the H9N2 strain of bird flu - Hong Kong's first human case of the virus strain in four years.

The case, in light of the other bird flu strains hitting humans with increased frequency - including the deadly H7N9 and H10N8 subtypes - may signal a higher risk of virus mutation and genetic swapping, experts say.

The man was in a stable condition at North District Hospital, in Sheung Shui, after crossing the border into the city on Saturday to seek medical help, health authorities said.

This case has not raised the overall risk much, but it is worrying that we are recently seeing various avian flu subtypes infecting humans more frequently
Microbiologist Dr Ho Pak-leung of the University of Hong Kong 

He had neither consumed nor come into direct contact with live poultry, nor had he been in contact with bird-flu sufferers.

"This case has not raised the overall risk much, but it is worrying that we are recently seeing various avian flu subtypes infecting humans more frequently," microbiologist Dr Ho Pak-leung of the University of Hong Kong said yesterday.

The man arrived at the Lo Wu border crossing suffering from chills, a cough and excess sputum. He was then taken to a hospital in an ambulance. He developed a mild fever in the hospital.

More than 50 medical and ambulance workers at the hospital are now being monitored for symptoms. The man's relatives in Shenzhen had not displayed any symptoms of illness, the Department of Health said.

Both Centre for Health Protection controller Dr Leung Ting-hung and HKU microbiologist Professor Yuen Kwok-yung said that the H9N2 strain usually caused a mild infection.

The virus did not spread to humans easily and there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission, Leung said.

However, the strain could be serious for the elderly and those with a weak immune system, Yuen said.

The south of the mainland had seen sporadic cases of human infection with H9N2 since 1998, he said.

In Hong Kong, where the virus was a statutory notifiable disease, seven cases had been recorded since 1999, the department said, two of which were imported from the mainland and four of which were local infections. One case was of an unknown origin.

The last case, an imported infection, was in 2009. All of the infected recovered from the virus.

Leung said H9N2 had been detected around the world.

The emergence of different strains of bird flu in humans heightened the risk of genetic swapping, which might lead to mutated viruses, Yuen said.

Increased demand for chicken on the mainland had prompted traders to pack more birds into the same amount of space in wet markets, increasing the risk of cross infection and genetic adaptation, he said. "Biosecurity measures and regulatory controls on the mainland have not caught up with increasing poultry numbers," he added.

Ho said that before Hong Kong banned wet markets from keeping live poultry overnight in 2008, the H9N2 infection rate was 5 per cent to 6 per cent. The rate fell below 1 per cent after the ban. Leung urged the public to avoid contact with live poultry and to practise good personal hygiene. He expects more cases of avian influenza as temperatures fall.



Differences between the H9N2, H5N1, H10N8 and H7N9 bird flu strains:

Sources of human infection

H9N2 chickens, ducks, magpies, sparrows, waterfowl

H5N1 first spread from poultry in Hong Kong in 1997

H10N8 detected in water birds on mainland in 2007

H7N9 detected in mainland live chickens and wet markets since first human infections in March

Possibility of human-to-human transmission

H9N2 no evidence yet

H5N1 appears low

H10N8 believed to be low, as most of its genes come from birds

H7N9 limited; only suspected to have been transmitted among people in four patient clusters

Number of cases

H9N2 11 in southern China since 1998

H5N1 at least 22 in Hong Kong since 1997; 648 cases globally since December 2003

H10N8 one (on the mainland)

H7N9 143 since February, all in China



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This article is now closed to comments

My god why are they all from China
The risk of infectious diseases is highest in populations that:
- are dense
- are mobile
- live in a relatively warm climate
- come in frequent contact with live stock, and especially with that live stock's bodily fluids (eg when slaughtering it).
The Pearl River Delta is an infectious disease's wet dream.
It is only a matter of time not when an equivalent pandemic to the Spanish Flu that took up to 100 million lives will emerge according to Margaret Chan, D-G of the WHO. But this next time as we can get to one side of the world to the other in 24 hours and where we have 3.5 times the population of 1918 now, together with the fact that in 1918 the fastest transit then was the slow boat to china, there will be at least 500 million deaths and probably more.
But where also the drug's cure will come too late - ****www.medicalnewstoday.com/opinions/95929/
Dr David Hill
World InnovationFoundation
We are living near them. Majority of them pay llitte attention on it. They have no time to care this problem as I think.


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