Hong Kong on higher alert as 7-year-old girl tested for H7N9 bird flu

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Additional measures will be implemented to boost Hong Kong's resistance to, and detection of, the H7N9 bird flu virus, the city's government said Friday, as a seven-year-old girl who visited Shanghai last month was undergoing tests at a Hong Kong hospital for the deadly virus.

Secretary for Food and Health of the city's government Ko Wing- man made the pledge on the day, saying the girl had been isolated at a Hong Kong hospital. She came down with flu symptoms after contacting live poultry. Her immediate relatives have no symptoms so far.

Ko said the Hong Kong government is highly concerned about the outbreak on the Chinese mainland. He said all public hospitals would step up their response plans in view of a possible outbreak.

Starting on Saturday, the Department of Health will deploy staff from the Auxiliary Medical Services and the Civil Aid Service and Health Surveillance Assistants to all immigration control points in Hong Kong to conduct random temperature checks on travelers, using hand-held temperature devices.

He said the department would implement the health declaration arrangement at all control points.

Tests will be conducted on imported chickens at the Man Kam To boundary checkpoint next week to ensure the birds are virus-free. If infected birds are found, the Hong Kong government will consider culling all poultry and suspending mainland poultry imports.

Other measures include enhancing the inspection and cleaning of poultry wholesale markets, public markets and streets.

Ko added that the Hong Kong Hospital Authority has 38 million surgical masks and 1.4 million N95 masks, which is sufficient for all medical staff for three months. It will designate clinics for infected patients or people suspected to be infected if there are human infections.

The city government will immediately upgrade the preparedness plan from "alert" to "serious" response level when the virus is detected in poultry, or there is human infection in Hong Kong.

As of Friday afternoon, mainland has reported 16 H7N9 cases nationwide -- six in Shanghai, six in Jiangsu, three in Zhejiang and one in Anhui, in the first known human infections of the lesser-known strain.

So far, six people have died from H7N9 infections in Shanghai and Zhejiang. Endi

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