One case of 'bird flu' confirmed in Hong Kong, UN health agency reports

One case of 'bird flu' confirmed in Hong Kong, UN health agency reports

Results from two laboratories confirmed today the presence of avian influenza, or "bird flu," in a nine-year-old boy in Hong Kong, where the United Nations lead health agency is now collaborating closely with authorities to provide needed support.

The young boy became ill on 9 February and was admitted to a Hong Kong hospital three days later, according to an update by the World Health Organization (WHO). He was treated and is now in stable condition. Other members of his family with similar symptoms, including the child’s sister and father, have died. The boy’s mother was also ill but has recovered.

WHO said it is not yet known whether the other family members who fell ill were also infected with the virus identified as the A (H5N1) strain. A medical and epidemiological investigation has been launched to determine the cause of those illnesses and deaths.

Investigations are also ongoing to determine the source of the infection and WHO is collaborating closely with health authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong. The WHO Global Influenza Surveillance network has also been alerted.

The virus was first seen in humans in 1997, when an outbreak of 18 cases caused six deaths in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China. Until then, the virus was seen only in birds, including chickens and ducks. Following confirmation of the initial case, in a two-year-old child in August 1997, an investigation was launched and surveillance was increased.