Via Bloomberg.com: H.K. Beefs Up Checks at Borders After First H7N9 Case. Excerpt:
Hong Kong beefed up surveillance of travelers with fever, activating part of a pandemic preparedness plan, after confirming its first case of a new strain of bird flu that killed 45 people in China.
Border control points have implemented disease prevention and control measures and body temperature checks have been enhanced, the city’s Centre for Health Protection said late yesterday in a statement. Seventeen people in contact with a domestic helper thought to have caught the H7N9 flu virus in the neighboring Chinese city of Shenzhen are in quarantine.
The novel avian influenza strain is often lethal to humans, though it doesn’t transmit easily from person to person. The initial cases are prompting international concern that the germ may trigger a global contagion if it’s allowed to spread and mutate into a more contagious form. Two of last century’s three flu pandemics are thought to have started in China before spreading in travelers.
“The Serious Response Level under the government’s preparedness plan for influenza pandemic has been activated while the CHP’s epidemiological investigation and follow-up actions are currently in full swing,” the agency said.
Human cases of H7N9 in China date to February and surged in April, before agriculture authorities temporarily closed live poultry markets and quarantined farms to limit human exposure. The Geneva-based World Health Organization counted 139 laboratory-confirmed cases as of Nov. 6.
Hong Kong’s case, a 36-year-old Indonesian woman, is in critical condition, Ko Wing-man, the city’s health secretary, told reporters yesterday. She had traveled to Shenzhen, where she bought and slaughtered a chicken. A 33-year-old woman who joined her on the trip doesn’t have symptoms and tested negative for the H7N9 virus, the Centre for Health Protection said.
Shenzhen is a 61-minute train ride from the downtown Central district of Hong Kong and a popular day-trip destination for shopping and dining. Last year, Hong Kong residents departed from the Lo Wu check point 35.4 million times, according to the census and statistics department. The city has 7.15 million residents, according to a government fact sheet.
Ten people who were in contact with the patient in the home, including four with non-specific symptoms, have been quarantined in Princess Margaret Hospital. They tested negative for the flu. Six patients hospitalized near the patient in Tuen Mun Hospital have been quarantined in the hospital pending laboratory testing.