First imported case of bird flu this winter confirmed by Hong Kong health authorities


Hong Kong health authorities have confirmed the first imported case of potentially deadly bird flu this winter season.

The case involves a 75-year-old Hongkonger who visited Changping in Guangdong province on November 28, the Centre for Health Protection said.

He returned to Hong Kong through Lo Wu on December 9, when he was directly admitted to North District Hospital in Sheung Shui by ambulance for a cough with sputum, shortness of breath, runny nose and chest discomfort.

His nasopharyngeal swab tested positive for the enterovirus and was negative for the flu virus.

On Saturday, the man developed a fever. The clinical diagnosis was pneumonia. However, a test on Monday confirmed he was positive for the H7N9 virus, a strain of bird flu.

He was listed in serious condition and has been isolated.

The centre said the man claimed not to have recently come into contact with poultry or to have visited a wet market.

It added that those who resided with him remained asymptomatic and had been put under medical surveillance. His residential information was not revealed.

Authorities said the hospitalised man denied he had recently been exposed to poultry or a wet market. Photo: Sam Tsang

The case was to be reported to the World Health Organisation as well as to national, provincial and Macau health authorities.

This is the first bird flu case this winter and the 17th imported H7N9 case confirmed in Hong Kong. Many of the prior cases involved contact with poultry or wet markets on the mainland.

Since 2013, mainland health authorities have reported 783 human cases of H7N9 bird flu.

On December 9, Guangdong province reported the first human case of H7N9 this winter. Similar cases were also detected in Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Fujian provinces, while human cases of H5N6 – another strain of bird flu virus – have been reported since last month in Hunan and Guangxi provinces.

Locally, in late November, four faecal bird dropping samples collected at Mai Po Nature Reserve were found to contain the H5N6 virus.