Global Alert and Response (GAR)

Influenza A(H5N1) in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China

19 February 2003

Disease Outbreak Reported

As of 19 February results from two laboratories have confirmed the presence of an avian influenza virus in a child in Hong Kong SAR. Tests conducted in two samples from this single patient have identified the virus as the strain of influenza A(H5N1). A similar virus caused an outbreak in Hong Kong SAR in 1997, with 18 cases detected and six deaths.

In the current outbreak, a 9-year-old boy who travelled to Fujian Province (China) in January with his mother and his two sisters became ill on February 9 and was admitted to a Hong Kong hospital on February 12. He has recovered and is in a stable condition. Other members of his family presented with a similar illness. The child’s sister and father have died. The boy’s mother was ill but has recovered.

It is not yet known whether the other family members were also infected with influenza A(H5N1). A medical and epidemiological investigation is ongoing in Hong Kong to determine the cause of those illnesses. Results should be available in the next few days. Investigations are ongoing to determine the source of the infection.

The World Health Organization is collaborating closely with health authorities in Hong Kong SAR and China in investigating the outbreak. The WHO Global Influenza Surveillance network has been alerted.

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