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It's been 18 months since the last case of the potentially deadly H5N1 virus, commonly known as the bird flu, struck Hong Kong. But now a new case is causing concern, and the source of the infection is still unknown.
Hong Kong authorities have confirmed that a two-year-old boy has been hospitalized with the bird flu. Although the bird flu alert level has been raised to "serious", health authorities are urging people not to panic.
The toddler is from Guangzhou in southern China and had been running a fever for weeks before his family took him to a private clinic in Hong Kong on May 26. After testing positive for the H5N1 Influenza A virus, he was placed in intensive care in the Princess Margaret Hospital. His parents have been quarantined there as well, although they tested negative for the virus.
Now the search is beginning for the source of the infection.
[York Chow, Secretary for Food and Health, Hong Kong]:
"A preliminary investigation showed that the boy went to a poultry market once with his mother. But within a radius of 13 kilometers from their home in Guangzhou, there is no such market. So we have to investigate further."
Protocol dictates that a 13-kilometer radius from the source of the infection will be declared an import control zone. Imports of poultry products will be suspended for 21 days.
Because of the high risk of infection, Hong Kong authorities are checking all those who may have had contact with the toddler. He spent five days at the Caritas Medical Centre before he was diagnosed with the bird flu and transferred to the Princess Margaret Hospital. Two healthcare workers there began to show symptoms, but later tested negative.
The bird flu is a potentially deadly virus with a 60 percent mortality rate, according to the World Health Organization.