Hong Kong authorities on Friday confirmed the city’s second case of human bird flu infection this winter, five days after the death of a first patient who contracted the same H7N9 strain of the disease.
The Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health said a 70-year-old man with underlying illnesses, who was admitted to hospital on December 27, was diagnosed with the H7N9 strain on December 29 and was in stable condition.
The case comes as fears grow over the spread of bird flu – in varying strains – in neighbouring South Korea and Japan, as well as mainland China.
At least two people have died from bird flu on the mainland and five have been infected so far this winter, the season when bird flu most frequently occurs.
Hong Kong officials said the source of infection was still under investigation.
“Avian influenza is expected to increase in winter based on its seasonal pattern,” a spokesman for the health protection centre said.
The unnamed patient, who was in contact with mobile stalls selling live poultry in the southern Chinese area of Zhongshan this month, returned to Hong Kong on December 16, according to city officials.
The man also bought a chilled chicken in Hong Kong’s Kwun Tong district on December 22.
Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Agriculture said on Friday the recent outbreaks of bird flu have been handled in a “timely and effective” manner without spreading and have not affected chicken products or prices.
In an emailed statement to Reuters, the government department said the situation in the world’s second-largest poultry consumer was “stable”.
The comments come as South Korea and neighboring countries battle outbreaks of various strains of the highly virulent flu.
China has culled more than 170,000 birds in four provinces since October and closed some live poultry markets after people and birds were infected by strains of the avian flu.
On Friday, the government said it has recorded ten cases of poultry being infected with the H5N6 strain this year compared with 11 last year.
“Each case has been handled timely and effectively without spreading. Experts believe the poultry bird flu situation will generally be stable despite some individual cases in some places,” the statement said.
The ministry, together with local agriculture agencies, have monitored and investigated poultry markets and farms where infected people live, it said.
It has also searched for the source of the virus and conducted emergency handling for infected poultry, as well as urged farmers, butchers and traders to step up sterilization programs.
Human infections of the H7N9 strain of bird flu killed two people in China’s Anhui province, the province’s health authority said on Dec. 21. A total of 16 people are infected with the strain nationally.