Act now against the virus

Act now against the virus

H7N9 is a new, deadly strain of flu that has led to an outbreak of infection in poultry and among people on the mainland. More than a dozen infected people have died and dozens of others have come down with the disease.

We should be bracing ourselves for further infections. Dr Leung Pak-yin, chief executive of the Hospital Authority, says that there is a high chance that local poultry may be infected by the virus because of migrating birds that fly here from the mainland.

Early treatment is crucial as there are cases where patients could be kept in stable conditions after receiving treatment. So it is vital that we respond quickly.

It is essential that you see a doctor as soon as you display the following symptoms: fever, sore throat, coughing and headache. It is better to be safe than sorry, especially with such a deadly disease with such a high mortality rate.

There is as yet no evidence that the virus can pass from human to human. Yet viruses can mutate quickly and it is likely that it's only a matter of time before that happens.

You would be well-advised to wear a mask in public if you are feeling unwell for the benefit of both yourself and others.

Recently Leung told the media that "Hong Kong is well prepared to fight any local H7N9 outbreak, with a stock of 18 million doses of Tamiflu and other medicines". That's encouraging.

However, we will need to keep abreast of deadly new viruses by developing new vaccines. Local authorities should work together with mainland officials both to find a cure for H7N9 and prevent an outbreak.

I believe that it is in our interest to err on the side of caution, and stop importing live poultry from the mainland for the time being. Such a measure should help close a door on H7N9.

We have no time to waste. To avoid a repetition of the Sars outbreak, we should start preparing to fight the war against H7N9 at once. The Sars outbreak taught us to be more alert and to dedicate more resources to medical technology. If we act now, I am confident that Hong Kong will win the war against the H7N9 virus.

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