Hong Kong follows up on confirmed human H9N2 influenza case

An 86-year-old man tested positive for influenza A H9N2, a strain of avian flu, and is currently in stable condition, Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection said on Monday.

The man is a Hong Kong resident living in Shenzhen, China. A sputum specimen from the patient tested positive for the avian flu strain upon testing by the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Services Branch. The man was in stable condition and afebrile as of Monday.

The Hong Kong Department of Health determined the patient had no recent contact with patients, consumption of undercooked poultry or recent poultry contact. His home contact in Shenzhen remained asymptomatic. More than 50 healthcare workers at North District Hospital and the ambulance service who came in contact with the patient were put under medical surveillance.

"The H9N2 virus is of avian origin and has been isolated mainly from poultry," a spokesperson from the DH said. "Rare and sporadic human cases have been reported and are generally mild respiratory tract infections. The public should avoid contact with poultry and other birds, including chickens, ducks and sparrows."

Influenza A H9 is a local statutorily notifiable infectious disease with two local cases reported in 1999 and one local case respectively filed in 2003 and 2007. All cases were mild infections with no deaths reported thus far.

The CHP said it increased publicity and health education against avian influenza. The agency recommended that healthcare professionals and members of the public stay vigilant and take preventive measures against avian influenza.

"Travelers, especially those returning from avian influenza-affected areas and provinces with fever or respiratory symptoms, should immediately wear masks, seek medical attention and reveal their travel history to doctors," the spokesperson said. "Health-care professionals should pay special attention to patients who might have had contact with poultry, birds or their droppings in affected areas and provinces."