Guangdong and Hong Kong yesterday each confirmed a new case of H7N9 bird flu as Hong Kong government called for stricter testing of poultry imports from the mainland.
Hong Kong health chiefs announced that a 65-year-old man who travelled to Shenzhen's Luohu district on January 1 and returned home to Hong Kong the next day was in a critical condition at Queen Mary Hospital.
He is the third case - one of them fatal - reported in the city, although all the patients are believed to have contracted the disease during visits to Shenzhen.
Meanwhile, officials in Guangdong confirmed yesterday that a 51-year-old woman had contracted the disease in Foshan, a city of 7.2 million people near Guangzhou. It was the province's third confirmed case this week, with another case in Foshan on Monday and one in Shenzhen on Tuesday.
The latest cases bring to 10 the number of infections confirmed in the province since August. There have been two cases each in Foshan, Dongguan and Shenzhen, and one in Huizhou - cities close to Hong Kong. Three cases have occurred in Yangjiang , about 150 kilometres west of Macau.
As it monitors the looming viral threat across the border, Hong Kong's Food and Health Bureau has urged mainland officials to introduce a more accurate H7N9 plasma test on poultry.
Despite weeks of discussion, no timeframe was given by the mainland authorities to replace their less-sensitive test.
University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said Hong Kong could technically conduct the plasma tests on its own, and he believed the delay was due to the reluctance of mainland authorities to carry out such a measure.
"If we test imported live poultry, it's likely that we may pick up something immediately and halt chicken imports from mainland farms," Ho said. "That means some businesses stand to lose."
Guangdong's health authorities said yesterday that the Foshan woman bought a live chicken and slaughtered it at home on December 31. She fell ill with a fever the same night. She was admitted to No1 People's Hospital in Foshan on Friday and was listed in critical condition yesterday.
Provincial health commission confirmed that a 39-year-old man in Dongguan identified earlier of contracting H7N9 died on Monday from organ failure.
Meanwhile, a four-year-old Hong Kong girl and her 37-year-old mother both tested negative for H7N9 yesterday, after the girl had close contact with Tuesday's male patient in Shenzhen.
The Department of Health said the girl has remained under quarantine yesterday.
Dr Leung Ting-hung, controller of the Centre for Health Protection at the Department of Health, said the latest Kong Kong victim man had had no direct contact with poultry but had "walked past" a wet market in Luohu before returning to the city.
Leung added that the man - who suffers from other underlying illnesses - also walked past the Pei Ho Street Municipal Services Building in Shamshuipo regularly. Health officials would be visiting the wet market there today to conduct checks.
An 80-year-old man, one of Hong Kong two other cases, died on December 26 and an Indonesian maid remains in a stable condition at Tuen Mun Hospital.