The latest human bird flu infection on the Chinese mainland is worrying as it
shows the H5N1 virus may have mutated and become as infectious in warm months as
in cooler ones, Hong Kong's health chief said on Friday.
virus thrives in lower temperatures and is usually most infectious in the cooler
months between October and March.
Vendors at Shenzhen poultry markets
must disinfect cages and shelves twice a day after confirmation of a human
bird flu case in the city. [China Daily]
But confirmation on Thursday that a 31-year-old truck driver in the southern
city of Shenzhen has been infected has caused uneasiness.
"Is this because the virus has changed, so that it is highly infectious all
year round? Or, if it is happening in summer, winter would be even worse?" said
the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, York Chow.
He said the virus might have become "more virulent and spread wider than
we've expected," though its mutation was not confirmed.
"If that is the case, the risk for humans to be infected in the future is
higher," he added.
The truck driver was admitted to hospital and was critically ill on Friday.
He had visited a market where live poultry was sold and eaten chicken before he
fell ill. But he is not known to have had any other close contact with poultry.
University of Hong Kong microbiology head Yuen Kwok-yung said the Shenzhen
case was abnormal and worried the disease would spread in winter.
"If there are human infections from June to August, it means the virus is
extremely active. I am worried that a major outbreak will happen in winter," he
In neighbouring Shenzhen, authorities have stepped up virus prevention and
The local government said it will now report the situation relating to human
bird flu cases every day.
The Shenzhen Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has been asked to
enhance its surveillance of any pneumonia-like cases.
So far the city has not reported any poultry infections.
But vendors said they are required to disinfect shelves twice a day and stop
on-the-spot slaughtering. Some supermarkets have stopped selling live chickens.
"Business is really bad. I didn't even sell one chicken today," said a vendor
at a Xiangmei Road market.
(China Daily 06/17/2006 page1)