The patient, a 51-year-old woman from Huizhou, in China’s Guangdong Province, is the first confirmed case of H7N9 since July. The Department of Health of Guangdong Province revealed that the patient worked at a poultry market in Boluo and had a history of exposure to live poultry. None of her close contacts tested positive for the virus.
This is the first confirmed case of the H7N9 strain of bird flu in Guangdong and it has sparked concerns in nearby Hong Kong, which has so far remained free of the virus.
Authorities have been quick to reassure Hong Kong citizens that no registered farms of poultry processing plants supplying live poultry and poultry products to Hong Kong were situated in an area of 13 kilometres’ radius from Boluo.
However, Hong Kong’s secretary for food and health, Dr Ko Wing-man, admitted that the confirmation of avian influenza H7N9 in the Guangdong Province was worrying, and the threat to Hong Kong “must not be overlooked”.
“We will be stepping up all surveillance measures, as well as control measures against H7N9,” he said.
He added that an existing agreement between Hong Kong and mainland authorities meant that if H7N9 is identified at a poultry establishment, imports would be automatically suspended from all poultry farms and processing plants within a 13-kilometre radius of the infected site.
A spokesperson for Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety (CFS) confirmed the CFS had been conducting rapid tests for detecting avian influenza viruses, including H7 viruses, for every consignment of live poultry imported from the mainland since April 2011.
“Up to the end of July, some 3,300 samples have been taken and all test results were satisfactory,” he said.
So far, there have been a total of 135 laboratory-confirmed human cases of avian influenza H7N9, including 44 deaths. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) four cases are currently hospitalised and 87 have been discharged.
The majority of cases have been on the Chinese mainland, with most concentrated in the provinces of Zhejiang, Shanghai and Jiangsu.