Health chief says it's possible more Hongkongers have H7N9 bird flu
Ko Wing-man says more cases may emerge in South China, and warned the virus was more active in winter
Food and Health Secretary Dr Ko Wing-man on Thursday did not out the possibility that more Hongkongers might be have the deadly H7N9 virus after a Hong Kong patient came down with the avian flu following a mainland trip.
The patient, a 66-year-old man with no history of consuming or coming in contact with live poultry, was diagnosed with bird flu after “passing by” a wet market in Shenzhen.
The man, who is in critical condition, is in isolation and getting intensive treatment at Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam.
“In the past, the virus has been detected in many samples taken from the environment. It means people should be careful when visiting wet markets, especially where live poultry is on sale,” Ko said. “The risk for people who suffer from chronic illness to visit the wet market is also higher.”
Ko noted that the patient with H7N9 was already suffering from long-term illness and required regular hemodialysis, a process for cleansing the blood of toxins.
Ko said experts have warned that the virus could be more active in winter, and believed more cases would emerge around Guangdong province and other southern Chinese regions.
But Ko maintained that Hong Kong would not halt all imports of live poultry from the mainland, although it has already suspended supplies from Shenzhen farms for the time being.
The import ban on three Shenzhen farms has been in place since the first H7N9 case in the city was last month. The patient, an Indonesian domestic worker, contracted the deadly new strain after travelling to Shenzhen where she was said to have bought and cooked a live chicken.
University of Hong Kong’s microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said that while he praised the government for suspending the Shenzhen supply at an earlier stage, Ho stressed it was time for a complete halt on all import of live poultry from the mainland.