January 30, 2014
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More H7N9 cases, 2 deaths, reported in mainland China, Hong Kong

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In the past two days, WHO has reported 21 additional cases of human infection with influenza A(H7N9) virus in China, including one death, according to a news release. Health officials in Hong Kong also reported a fatal human case, as well as positive samples from live chicken imported from the mainland.

To date, there have been 259 confirmed cases of human infection with H7N9, resulting in 56 deaths.

The most recent cases occurred in patients aged 31 to 81 years and were reported from Shanghai (1) and Fujian (2), Guangdong (6), Hunan (1), Jiangsu (2) and Zhejiang (9) provinces in eastern China. All but one of the patients had a history of exposure to poultry.

The fatal case was identified as a 68-year-old farmer from Jiangmen City in Guangdong province. He became ill Jan. 18 and was hospitalized Jan. 21. The patient died Jan. 25.

In addition, the Hong Kong Department of Health is investigating another case of H7N9, the fourth in Hong Kong, after a 75-year-old man with underlying medical conditions became ill Jan. 26 in the city of Shenzhen in Guangdong province, China, and died 2 days later.

According to a Hong Kong Department of Health press release, the risk for transmission of avian influenza is expected to increase during the Chinese Lunar New Year.

“In view of human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) confirmed in Hong Kong and multiple cases reported in the Mainland, the activity of the virus is expected to be higher in the winter season,” the release stated. “Those planning to travel outside Hong Kong during Lunar New Year should maintain good personal, environmental and food hygiene at all times.”

An epidemiological investigation by health officials in Hong Kong also confirmed H7N9 in samples taken from live chicken imported from the mainland. The poultry worker responsible for transporting the chickens to Hong Kong was identified, although he was asymptomatic and respiratory specimens tested negative for infection. Health officials have identified 95 other contacts, all of whom have been placed under medical surveillance.

According to WHO, the report of H7N9 being detected in live poultry imported from mainland China to Hong Kong suggests that the virus has the potential to spread across borders, but “there is no indication that international spread of H7N9 has occurred through humans or animals.”

“Further sporadic human cases of A(H7N9) infection are expected in affected and possibly neighboring areas, especially given expected increases in the trade and transport of poultry associated with the upcoming Lunar New Year,” WHO stated.

– Updated Jan. 30.