Bird flu returns to Hong Kong after seven years

HONG Kong has confirmed its first case of bird flu in humans in seven years, with a 59-year-old woman in a serious condition after a visit to mainland China.

The government has raised Hong Kong’s bird flu alert to “serious”, meaning there is a “high risk” of contracting the potentially fatal disease, a spokesman for the Department of Health said.

Hong Kong recorded its last case of bird flu in humans in 2003, and had the world’s first major outbreak among humans in 1997, when six people died of a then-unknown mutation of the virus. Millions of poultry were culled.

The 59-year-old woman tested positive for Influenza A (H5), a variant of avian influenza, after she was first diagnosed with pneumonia, health officials said. She is now listed in a serious condition in hospital.

Officials are working to determine whether she contracted the virus in Hong Kong or elsewhere, and are monitoring people who have been in contact with her.

The city’s health chief York Chow said there was no sign so far of human-to-human transmission in the case.

“I think we have to first concentrate on the source of infection from the poultry as origin,” he said.

“But we will be concentrating on people who were in contact with her when she showed symptoms and also when she was in Hong Kong.

“The chances of her catching it is most likely on the mainland, but you cannot rule out… Hong Kong.”

The woman travelled to mainland China between October 23 and November 1 with her husband and daughter, the Centre for Health Protection at the Department of Health said in a statement.

She did not visit farms or have contact with live poultry, an initial investigation found. The woman was admitted to hospital on November 14 after complaining of a persistent fever and cough.

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