Hong Kong Investigatesa Influenza A H9N2 Case

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The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Hong Kong Department of Health is investigating a case of influenza A (H9N2) infection, a mild form of avian influenza, involving a two–month-old girl.

The Controller of CHP, Dr Thomas Tsang said the baby girl, living in Shenzhen with her parents, developed vomiting, cough and runny nose (but no fever) and was admitted to Tuen Mun Hospital (TMH) on December 22. She was discharged on the next day.

The girl was taken back to Shenzhen and was re-admitted to TMH on December 29 because of high white blood cell count, which may be suggestive of underlying hematological condition.

Dr Tsang said influenza A (H9N2) virus was detected from the girl's respiratory specimen taken on December 22.

The girl was staying at hospital for isolation and further investigation. Her family members are asymptomatic all along and have been put under medical surveillance.

"Further genetic sequencing is being conducted to determine if the virus is completely of avian origin," Dr Tsang said.

"As the girl was staying in Shenzhen for the whole incubation period, we have informed the Guangdong health department of this case and they will carry out necessary investigation and follow up actions.

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The department will inform the World Health Organization, the Ministry of Health, health authorities of Macao about the findings.

Influenza A (H9N2) is an avian influenza virus which has been isolated from duck and chicken for many years. Infection in humans is rare, and appears to present as a mild disease.

Dr Tsang noted that this was the fifth time H9N2 viruses, an avian influenza virus, were isolated from humans in Hong Kong.

Three girls and a boy were confirmed to have suffered from H9N2 infection in 1999, 2003 and 2007 respectively.

Hong Kong has a very comprehensive avian influenza surveillance programme to detect the presence of any avian influenza in our environment and the possible reassortment of the viruses so that prompt responsive measures can be taken, Dr Tsang said.

As a precautionary measure, people are reminded to avoid contact with live poultry to minimise the chance of being infected with avian influenza.

"Hands should be washed thoroughly with soap and water after handling live poultry.

"To build up good body resistance against influenza, the public are encouraged to maintain a balanced diet, do regular exercise, and have adequate rest. They should not smoke," Dr Tsang said.

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