Feb 24, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

First Case of Deadly Bird Flu Confirmed

Dec 30, 2014 03:56 PM EST

The first case of the deadly bird flu has been confirmed in Hong Kong and health officials fear that this season may see many more infections that past cases of H7N9 -- the lethal strain of the pathogen.  Patient zero, a woman from Hong Kong, is in critical condition, and has been confirmed as having the lethal strain of the influenza virus, marking the first case of the deadly flu this winter.

The sixty-eight year old woman was admitted to the hospital on Thursday, December 19, Hong Kong government officials said in a statement. And she has been placed in a critical care isolation unit to contain the viral pathogen.

The case has been classified as "imported" after information came to light that the woman had recently been in the Longgang district of Shenzhen in mainland China.  While she was there, the woman reportedly ate chicken, but did not come in contact with live poultry.  Currently, the government is trying to track down anyone, including her friends, that may have come into contact with her, as they may have also been exposed to the virus.

According to the World Health Organization, the first human case of H7N9 was reported in mainland China in March 2013.  After its discovery, the virus quickly spread from mainland China to Hong Kong last December, where three casualties died because of complications caused by the virus.

Officials at Hong Kong's Health and Food and Environmental Health Departments have, thus far, not made any comments about this new case of the lethal bird flu.

Hong Kong hospitals have introduced measures to monitor and contain influenza infection, including cutting visitor hours, after the government raised the city's influenza pandemic response level to "serious" in a statement released late on Saturday Dec. 27.

Recent statistics compiled by health authorities in China show 310 cases were diagnosed on the mainland from January until December 10 this year, which include 132 deaths.  Last year, the country recorded 46 deaths and 144 cases since the outbreak in March 2013. The virus ignited fears that it could mutate to become easily transmitted between people, threatening a global pandemic.

"Most of these infections are believed to result from exposure to infected poultry or contaminated environments, as H7N9 viruses have also been found in poultry in China" according to CDC health officials. "While some mild illnesses in human H7N9 cases have been seen, most patients have had severe respiratory illness, with about one-third resulting in death."

Currently, there is no evidence of sustained person to person spread of the virus, although some evidence points to limited person to person spread.  The first case outside of China was in Malaysia and was reported on February 12, 2014.  Currently, the H7N9 virus has not been detected in people or birds in the United States.

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