H7N9 virus

Health chief warns city to brace for peak flu season, following two deaths and multiple cases

Residents that have recently travelled to affected parts of the mainland reminded to stay away from wet markets

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 January, 2017, 2:31pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 January, 2017, 9:09pm

Peak flu season may almost be upon us after the city’s health chief on Sunday warned of a sharp spike in local cases.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man also expressed concern over three imported cases – including two deaths – of H7N9 bird flu, and again called on local residents who have come back from the mainland to stay away from live poultry or wet markets.

“We are beginning to notice an increase in local reported flu [cases], meaning this year’s peak flu season is beginning to arrive. The Hospital Authority has initiated its winter surge measures and we hope everyone pays good attention to their personal and public hygiene.

“I am extremely concerned about the [bird flu] situation. And I must reiterate again, especially to Hong Kong residents who have been to the affected places in the mainland, not to visit wet markets,” Ko added.

A 62-year-old Hongkonger died last Friday after contracting H7N9 bird flu in Guangdong province. He was the city’s third confirmed imported case in three weeks.

On Sunday, the Centre of Health Protection (CHP) said a health care worker at Yan Chai Hospital, where the victim was admitted to on Wednesday, had tested negative for influenza A virus after showing mild symptoms. Another symptomatic patient also tested negative for the virus, the centre said.

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A 75-year-old man died on December 27, in what was the first confirmed imported case of bird flu this winter.

The centre on Saturday said it was closely monitoring a total of six additional human cases of bird flu in Jiangxi, Shanghai, Hunan and Shandong. It again urged the public to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene, both locally and during travel.

Epidemiological experience in the past few years showed most imported bird flu cases were detected in Hong Kong in the first quarter.

“As H7N9 virus continues to be detected in animals and environments in the mainland, additional human cases are expected in affected and possibly neighbouring areas,” a CHP spokesman said.

“In view of the heavy trade and travel between the mainland and Hong Kong, further sporadic human cases in Hong Kong every now and then are expected, especially in the coming few months,” the spokesman said.

Ko on Sunday also took the opportunity to make a plea for more of the public to register as organ donors. He said that at least three young patients were awaiting heart transplants at Queen Mary Hospital.