Hong Kong health authorities are investigating the first imported human case of H7N9 bird flu this winter.
The patient, a 75-year-old Hongkonger, visited Changping in Guangdong province on November 28 and sought medical help on December 8 at a hospital there following discomfort in the chest, the Centre for Health Protection said on Monday.
The patient returned to Hong Kong through the Lo Wu border crossing on December 9, when he was directly admitted to North District Hospital in Sheung Shui by ambulance for a cough with sputum, shortness of breath, runny nose and chest discomfort.
Upon admission, he tested positive for the enterovirus and negative for the influenza virus. He then developed a fever on Saturday and was diagnosed with pneumonia.
By Monday, the Centre confirmed that he had tested positive for the H7N9 bird flu virus.
The patient remains in a serious condition and under isolation. He denied that he had come into contact with poultry or visited a wet market recently.
The Centre said that those who live with the patient have remained asymptomatic but have been put under medical surveillance. It is tracing the patient’s other contacts in Hong Kong, while working with the Chinese authority to track down his movements in the mainland.
The case will be reported to the World Health Organization as well as to the national, Guangdong and Macau health authorities.
It is the first bird flu case this winter and the 17th imported H7N9 case confirmed in Hong Kong. Four bird dropping samples collected in Mai Po Marshes near Yuen Long last month also tested positive for H5N6, another strain of bird flu.
The Hong Kong government urges the public to avoid touching poultry and their droppings, as well as visiting poultry markets and farms during travel. It asks travellers to consult doctors promptly if they develop any flu symptoms.
Since 2013, the Chinese government has reported 783 cases of H7N9 infections. Similar cases in Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Fujian provinces have been detected since last month, while H5N6 cases were found in Hunan and Guangxi provinces.
Last week, Macau banned the sale of live chickens for three days after confirming its first human infection with H7N9 bird flu.