Hong Kong sees first bird flu diagnosis in seven years

According to health officials, doctors in Hong Kong have recently diagnosed the first case of bird flu there in the last seven years.  

The Hong Kong Department of Health announced that a 59-year-old woman has been hospitalized in serious condition after a trip to mainland China, according to CNN.

The woman, diagnosed with influenza A (H5), had not visited any farms on her trip, nor did she come into contact with live poultry, so it remains unknown how she contracted the disease.

Her 60-year-old husband also came down with similar symptoms to his wife’s, but he has since recovered, CNN reports.

Officials have begun testing patients with severe pneumonia for the flu in an effort to boost surveillance capabilities. They are working with officials in mainland China to monitor future outbreaks and have created a dedicated hotline to help ease the public’s fears.

Avian influenza is rare in humans, but it does occur. In 1997, the H5N1 strain infected 18 people in Hong Kong, resulting in six deaths. In those cases, however, the people were infected after coming into contact with live poultry. To avert a major pandemic, Hong Kong’s 1.5 million poultry population was destroyed in three days. Domesticated poultry, like chickens and turkeys, are thought to be most susceptible to the disease.

Genetic studies showed the disease had migrated from birds to humans.