Friday, May 1, 2009

Asia Reports First Case of Swine Flu in Hong Kong

Via NYTimes -

Swine flu spread to Asia on Friday, as Hong Kong authorities announced the continent’s first case, a 25-year-old traveler who came from Mexico via Shanghai, and immediately quarantined an entire hotel where the traveler had stayed on Thursday night.

The case re-awoke memories of SARS, the severe acute respiratory syndrome that arrived in the territory six years ago, and raised concerns that the virus may have been introduced to mainland China, although the man did not leave the airport while in Shanghai. Flu experts have warned that it would be harder to manage the disease if it becomes established in Asia’s densely populated countries.


Hong Kong’s first confirmed arrived Thursday afternoon on a China Eastern flight, then checked into a local hotel and fell ill, health officials said in an evening press briefing. Hong Kong authorities responded quickly, quarantining the man at a local hospital, declaring a health emergency, and then quarantining all 200 guests at the hotel, the Metropark, for seven days — whether or not they had contact with the man.

About 100 members of the hotel staff are also being kept in the building, and will be moved to rural campgrounds that are being converted overnight into medical quarantine areas, authorities said. Health workers in blue uniforms and green surgical masks also arrived to distribute boxes of Tamiflu, which is used to shorten the duration of the flu, to hotel guests and staff.

“No one can enter or leave the hotel without the permission of a health officer,” said Dr. Lam Ping-yan, Hong Kong’s director of health.


While it is not yet clear if this new virus is more lethal than seasonal flus, which kill an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 people worldwide each year, some scientists are beginning to argue that the A(H1N1) flu lacks some of the genetic earmarks of a highly lethal strain. Mexican health officials said Friday that the virus is responsive to treatment by Tamiflu and other antiviral medications if they are administered shortly after the disease’s onset, and reported that widespread closures mandated throughout the country appeared to be slowing the disease’s spread.

Yet most people will not have immunity to this new virus, and a vaccine is months away. And even a flu with a low percentage of lethality can cause a large number of deaths if vast swaths of populations are infected.

No comments:

Post a Comment