Eight more people died of flu in Hong Kong Monday, bringing the death toll from the epidemic to 255 since the beginning of the year, Metro Hong Kong reported.
A total of 5,765 patients required emergency services in public hospitals on the first day when the hospitals resumed normal operations after the Lunar New Year holidays, the report said.
Meanwhile, a case of H7N9 bird flu was confirmed on Monday, making it the third such case in the city this winter.
The patient, a 61-year-old man, has been placed in the intensive care unit of Queen Mary Hospital since Feb. 20. He is now said to be in a critical condition and requiring the use of an artificial lung to help him breathe.
According to the Center for Health Protection, the man had traveled to Zhangmutou near Dongguan city in Guangdong Province during Feb. 6-8, and also made a second visit during Feb. 14-15. He is said to have bought slaughtered chickens there before cooking them and bringing them to Hong Kong.
The center confirmed the suspected case Monday after the man tested positive for H7N9 avian influenza. It is now keeping track of ten people who had close contact with the man and another 16 people with whom he may have had casual contact.
Dr. Ho Pak-Leung, a microbiologist at Hong Kong University, said the seasonal flu epidemic is still at its peak in Hong Kong. It cannot be ruled out that the current H3N2 flu virus could mix with H7N9 bird flu virus and create a new variant that would increase the risk of person-to-person infection, he said.
He expects to see some more bird flu cases in the coming days as many people have spent holidays in the mainland and returned to Hong Kong.
Ho urged citizens to avoid going to poultry markets in the mainland, and also reminded people to wash their hands more often.
So far this year, half of the 120 human H7N9 cases that have been reported by Chinese health authorities were in Guangdong, with most of them in Shenzhen, the report said.
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