Hong Kong reported its second human case of H7N9 bird flu just days after the first, raising fears that the virus is spreading beyond mainland China.
Hong Kong’s Health Department said late on Friday that an 80-year-old man being treated for a chronic illness in the hospital was found to have the bird flu strain.
Authorities in the Asian financial and transport hub have been monitoring H7N9 closely since it was first identified in April.
H7N9 has sickened about 140 people and killed 45, almost all of them in China. Taiwan has had one case.
Health officials said that the second patient lived in Shenzhen, a Chinese city across the border from Hong Kong, and sought treatment at a hospital. Authorities were looking for people who may have been in contact with him, including relatives and the taxi driver who brought him to the hospital.
Officials have stepped up border checks and raised the alert level after the first case, an Indonesian maid, was reported on Monday.
In Taiwan, the Central Epidemic Command Center said yesterday that the second confirmed case of H7N9 infection reported in Hong Kong has raised concern about the spread of the disease to the south.
Hong Kong’s latest patient, similar to the first reported on Dec. 2, based on existing epidemiological data, is believed to have acquired the virus in China’s Guangdong Province, the center said. Therefore, Zhejiang and Guangdong remain the two provinces in China for which level-two travel health alerts has been issued, while other provinces (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) remain on the first-level “watch,” the center said.
The center said that with Hong Kong reporting its second case of H7N9 infection, it is possible the disease has spread south.
Customs and border inspections targeting those returning from China are ongoing, the center said. Those who have a fever and have traveled to China within 14 days, particularly people who had contact with local poultry, are to be accompanied by the inspection officials to hospitals for tests.
The center said the Council of Agriculture has also formulated procedural guidelines for handling the possible discovery in domestic poultry farms of H7N9 bird flu virus showing a close relationship with that in China.