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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Avian Influenza A(H7N9) in Hong Kong (ex China)

30 Dec 2016

The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region issued a press releaseLink on 27 December 2016 which confirmed the death man who was infected with avian influenza A(H7N9). The male patient, aged 75 had underlying illnesses and had travelled to Changping, Dongguan (Southern China) on 28 November 2016. The patient denied recent exposure to poultry or wet market. The patient was the first imported human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Hong Kong this winter.

The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region issued a further press releaseLink on 30 December 2016 advising of investigations into another human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Hong Kong. The male patient, aged 70 has underlying illnesses, symptoms on 26 December 2016 and was admitted to the isolation unit of United Christian Hospital on 27 December 2016. The patient is stable and has been transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital. This patient had travelled to Shenzhen and Zhongshan (China) and returned to Hong Kong via Lo Wu (China) on 16 December 2016. The patient reported coming across mobile stalls selling live poultry in Zhongshan, and also having purchased chilled chicken from a shop near a wet market in Kwun Tong on 22 December 2016 but advised he did not enter the wet market. The source of infection is still under investigation.

In response health officials have advised the public to avoid touching birds, poultry or their droppings and visiting poultry markets or farms during travel. Additionally anyone with a fever or cough is being advised to wear a mask and seek medical advice promptly. Travellers returning from affected areas should seek medical advice promptly and advise medics of their travel history.

Advice for Travellers

During Travel

  • Avoid contact with poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons, quail) or any wild birds and the settings where they are present e.g. commercial poultry farms, backyard poultry farms and live poultry markets. Also avoid contact with sick or dead poultry and birds. Avoid contact with surfaces that may be contaminated with poultry droppings.
  • One of the most important ways of preventing the spread of infection is careful and frequent hand washing. If soap, clean water and towels are not available, alcohol hand rub can be used.
  • Do not eat uncooked or undercooked poultry or poultry products including food with uncooked poultry blood. All poultry, including eggs must be thoroughly cooked.
  • If unwell with a fever (temperature of 38° C or more), cough, difficulty with breathing, headache, sore throat, sore eyes or muscle aches, promptly seek out medical attention. The British Embassy can assist with contacting medical aid and relatives. Postpone any further travel until well again.
  • Do not attempt to live bring poultry or poultry products back into the country.

On Returning Home

  • To date, no UK traveller has been infected. The risk of infection is increased by prolonged, close and heavy exposure to the virus.
  • Pay attention to health on return home, particularly over the first 7-10 days.
  • If symptoms develop such as those mentioned above or any other flu-like or respiratory illness during this period, individuals should be advised to seek immediate medical attention. Contact the General Practitioner or NHS111 (England) Tel: NHS111 or NHS 24 (Scotland) Tel: 08454 24 24 24.
  • Before visiting a health-care setting (e.g. health centre or hospital), describe the symptoms and tell the provider that there might have been exposure to avian influenza, giving details of recent travel history.
  • Do not travel whilst unwell and limit contact with others as much as possible to prevent the spread of any infectious illness until assessed by a Doctor.
  • Follow good hygiene practices: cover the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, use tissues only once, disposing of them promptly and carefully, wash hands frequently.