Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Last week on Feb 12, The World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of a single case of laboratory-confirmed human infection with avian influenza A (H7N9) virus from the Ministry of Health of Malaysia. This is the first case to be reported from Malaysia since the bird flu first broke out nearly a year ago.
The case was in a 67-year-old woman who was on tour from Guangdong Province, China. She arrived in Malaysia with a 17-member tour group, which included relatives, who all had stayed overnight in Kuala Lumpur. The group then traveled to Sabah, Malaysia on the fourth through the sixth. On Feb 7, the woman was admitted to hospital and later transferred to another medical facility in Sabah. The patient is currently in stable condition.
It was later confirmed that the woman, prior to traveling to Malaysia, was treated at a clinic on Jan 30 for symptoms of fever, cough, flu, fatigue and joint pain. It was believed that the onset of further symptoms in Malaysia was a result of exposure that occurred before the dates of travel.
Malaysia’s MOH is conducting an investigation into the matter. It said it is coordinating information sharing with the Chinese Government.
Apart from the single Malaysian case, the WHO has received continuing reports, almost daily, from China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC).
Since the beginning of February, a total of 89 cases of H7N9 have been laboratory-confirmed from China; add that to the 120 cases reported in January and the total number of cases reported in 2013 and case counts now stand at 357, according to FluTrackers.com.
In mainland China, case totals of human infection from H7N9 stand at 347. Breaking the infections down by province, by far the most cases have been confirmed from Zhejiang, with 135 cases. Guangdong has seen 69 cases, Shanghai and Jiangsu have both seen 41 cases, Fujian has confirmed 20 cases and Hunan has had 12 cases. Anhui, Jiangxi, Beijing, Henan, Guangxi, Shandong, Guizhou and Hebei have all reported less than 10 cases.
A spokesman for China’s Center for Health Protection (CHP) said on Sunday that close surveillance, health measures and health education relating to the H7N9 outbreak are ongoing and that the country will remain vigilant and maintain communications with the WHO and other health authorities. The spokesman added that surveillance practices will be modified upon the WHO’s recommendations.
“In view of human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) confirmed in Hong Kong and multiple cases notified by the Mainland, the activity of the virus is expected to be higher in the winter season. Those planning to travel outside Hong Kong should maintain good personal, environmental and food hygiene at all times,” the spokesman urged.
“All boundary control points have implemented disease prevention and control measures. Thermal imaging systems are in place for body temperature checks of inbound travellers. Random temperature checks by handheld devices have also been arranged. Suspected cases will be immediately referred to public hospitals for follow-up investigation,” the spokesman added.
The spokesman advised travelers, especially those returning from H7N9-infected regions, to immediately wear masks, seek medical attention and reveal travel history to their doctors. Healthcare professionals should pay close attention to their patients who may have had contact with live poultry in affected areas.
According to a CIDRAP report, Vietnam’s government is also stepping up efforts to prevent the spread of virus to its poultry. The country’s agriculture ministry met with officials on Feb 13 and subsequently announced a ban on all Chinese poultry. The ban came after officials voiced concerns that China’s Guangxi Province, which borders Vietnam to the north, had confirmed H7N9 infections.
Local officials have been ordered to boost surveillance and test all birds in poultry markets in Vietnam’s northern region, according to CIDRAP, citing a media report from Than Nien News.
The WHO does not currently advise any special screening practices at points of entry with regard to H7N9, nor does it currently recommend any travel or trade restrictions.