Hong Kong confirms 2nd human bird flu infection this winter, Shanghai reports new case

Hong Kong officials said the source of infection was still under investigation.
Hong Kong officials said the source of infection was still under investigation. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (REUTERS, AFP) - Hong Kong on Friday (Dec 30) confirmed its second human case of bird flu this season, days after an elderly man died of the virus. 

The case comes as fears grow over the spread of bird flu - in varying strains - in neighbouring South Korea and Japan, as well as mainland China.

A 70-year-old man, who had travelled to the Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Zhongshan earlier in December, tested positive for the H7N9 strain of the virus, the government said in a statement.

He said he had come across mobile stalls selling live poultry in Zhongshan, but authorities said they were still investigating the source of the infection. 

The patient has been hospitalised in stable condition. Those who have been in close contact with him have been put under medical surveillance although none have yet reported any symptoms. 

Cases of bird flu were “expected to increase in winter based on its seasonal pattern”, the government statement added. 

Another elderly man, who had bought a chicken from a market in Guangdong province, died on Sunday, less than a week after testing positive for H7N9. 

Hong  Kong is particularly alert to the spread of viruses.

Bird flu was first reported in humans in Hong Kong in 1997, when six people died, and subsequent outbreaks have killed hundreds more worldwide. An outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) swept through the city in 2003, killing 299 people.

At least two people have died from bird flu on the mainland and five have been infected so far this winter. 

Shanghai’s health authority on Friday also confirmed a new human case of H7N9 infection, the state-owned news agency Xinhua said. The man diagnosed with H7N9 bird flu is being treated in a hospital, Xinhua reported.

Shanghai has already reported one human case of H7N9 infection this month. Shanghai is China’s largest city by population with more than 24 million residents.

Bird flu is most likely to strike in winter and spring and farmers have in recent years increased cleaning regimes, animal detention techniques, and built roofs to cover hen pens, among other steps, to prevent the disease.