Second bird flu death in Hong Kong this winter

Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection has confirmed the death of a 62 year old man from avian flu.

The man had been traveling from mainland China. He was the second person to die of avian influenza in Hong Kong this winter. The first patient died on Christmas Day.

The man, who visited the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou in mid-December and was hospitalised in the neighboring city of Dongguan earlier in the week, died from H7N9.

The patient was admitted to Yan Chai Hospital in Hong Kong on Wednesday. It was not clear how or where he contracted the virus. He had said he had not had any recent exposure to poultry or wet markets.

Contact tracing has so far identified 33 close contacts and 90 other contacts.

Close contacts include the patient’s family contacts as well as relevant in-patients and healthcare workers at the hospital. A health care worker with mild symptoms is pending testing and the others have remained asymptomatic. They will be given antiviral prophylaxis with oseltamivir (Tamiflu) for five days, advised to wear a mask and put under medical surveillance for 10 days following their last exposure to the patient.

Other contacts are the patient’s other family members, other relevant in-patients, visitors and health care workers at the hospital, personnel involved upon his arrival in Hong Kong and ambulance personnel involved in patient transfer. All remain asymptomatic. They will be advised to wear a mask and will be put under medical surveillance for 10 days following their last exposure to the patient. For those in-patients with underlying illnesses or higher risk of complications, they will also be given Tamiflu for five days as a precautionary measure.

Regarding the second human H7N9 case this winter reported on 30 December 2016, further epidemiological investigations revealed that the patient’s residence in Zhongshan from 14 to 16 December last year was opposite a wet market with live poultry stalls and there were also mobile stalls selling live poultry outside the market. Based on information available so far, it has been classified as an imported case. The patient was hospitalised in Princess Margaret Hospital in a serious condition.

Hong Kong has now had three confirmed human cases of H7N9 in three weeks. All three patients had visited southern China.

From 2013 to date, 19 imported human H7N9 cases have been confirmed in Hong Kong, with seven deaths (37 per cent).

The Centre for Health Protection is also closely monitoring an additional human H7N9 case in Shandong. That patient is a man aged 77.

In mainland China, H7N9 has killed at least four people this season, with the latest death reported in the eastern province of Shandong on Thursday. At least 19 infections have been confirmed.

China saw its last major avian flu outbreak in late 2013 and early 2014, when 36 patients died and the agricultural sector suffered more than $6 billion in losses.