Hong Kong Confirms Human Case of Avian Flu, as Colorado Reports Mass Bird Deaths

Hong Kong confirmed a case of a man critically ill with avian influenza. On the other side of the world, Colorado is reporting its worst-ever avian flu outbreak among birds of prey.

Hong Kong confirmed a case of a man critically ill with avian influenza. On the other side of the world, Colorado is reporting its worst-ever avian flu outbreak among birds of prey.

Hong Kong

This week, Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health announced they are “closely monitoring” a human case of avian influenza A(H5N6).

The case was confirmed in a 54-year-old man, who became symptomatic on November 2, 2022, and was admitted for treatment on November 5, 2022. The man resided in Changsha, Hunan (Mainland China), and was in critical condition at the time he was admitted.

Although this man is the only reported case of human avian flu, it is still notable for infection control purposes. Indeed, according to a CHP spokesman, “All novel influenza A infections, including H5N6, are notifiable infectious diseases in Hong Kong.”

Since 2014, only 82 human cases of avian influenza have been reported by Mainland China health authorities. To prevent further infections, travelers to Mainland China and other affected areas should promptly seek medical care if avian flu symptoms develop. It is critical to tell a health care professional about any exposure to live poultry during travel.

The CHP stated surveillance, prevention, and control measures are all instated at the local level, and said they plan to work with the World Health Organization (WHO) to follow any new developments.

In the meantime, the CHP emphasized caution among all individuals who have traveled to Mainland China or other affected areas. Specifically, these people must:

  • Avoid visiting wet markets, live poultry markets or farms
  • Be vigilant of the presence of backyard poultry when visiting relatives and friends
  • Avoid purchasing live or freshly slaughtered poultry
  • Avoid touching poultry/birds or their droppings
  • Observe personal and hand hygiene when visiting any place with live poultry

Colorado

Simultaneously, in the US, Colorado is experiencing its worst-ever avian flu outbreak—in poultry and birds of prey.

The US Department of Agriculture has reported over 57 million birds were infected with avian flu in 2022. In Colorado, these have resulted in 6.4 million documented poultry deaths.

Avian flu is harder to spot in the wild, but many birds of prey are displaying symptoms typical of avian influenza: settling in the snow, making circles, tilting their heads, and staring at the sky. Unfortunately, birds seriously ill with the virus must be euthanized to stop the spread.

The raptor population has proven particularly susceptible to this bird flu outbreak. These opportunistic hunters will feed on the carcasses of dead birds, like geese, and contract avian influenza via contact with infected feces of mucosal material.

Consumers are also feeling the effects of the avian flu outbreaks. Colorado egg production, at 41.1 million eggs, is now a third of what it was a few months prior. Currently, the cost of a dozen eggs is twice what it was a year ago.

In the wild, officials say there is no way to stop the spread in migratory birds, and mass infections and deaths are expected the rise again in the spring, once these birds return north.

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