Avian influenza A H5N1 continues to be a major threat to global public health as it is a likely candidate for the next influenza pandemic. To protect public health and avert potential disruption to the economy, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has committed substantial effort in preparedness for avian and pandemic influenza. Public health infrastructures for emerging infectious diseases have been developed to enhance command, control and coordination of emergency response. Strategies against avian and pandemic influenza are formulated to reduce opportunities for human infection, detect pandemic influenza timely, and enhance emergency preparedness and response capacity. Key components of the pandemic response include strengthening disease surveillance systems, updating legislation on infectious disease prevention and control, enhancing traveller health measures, building surge capacity, maintaining adequate pharmaceutical stockpiles, and ensuring business continuity during crisis. Challenges from avian and pandemic influenza are not to be underestimated. Implementing quarantine and social distancing measures to contain or mitigate the spread of pandemic influenza is problematic in a highly urbanised city like Hong Kong as they involved complex operational and ethical issues. Sustaining effective risk communication campaigns during interpandemic times is another challenge. Being a member of the global village, Hong Kong is committed to contributing its share of efforts and collaborating with health authorities internationally in combating our common public health enemy.
In 1997, Hong Kong became reputed by identifying the first instance of human infection with avian influenza H5N1. A total of 18 cases occurred that year resulted in 6 deaths. The outbreak was completely terminated after the culling of over 1.5 million chickens.
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