Philippines on alert after bird flu return in Hong Kong

MANILA, November 19, 2010 (AFP) – Philippine authorities stepped up airport health checks on Friday after Hong Kong confirmed its first human case of bird flu since 2003.

Doctors from the health department and quarantine bureau have been dispatched to man thermal scanners at the international arrivals section, said Manila International Airport Authority chief Jose Angel Honrado.

“We are prepared to address this potential threat,” Honrado told reporters. “We are not taking any chances.”

There are an estimated 250,000 Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong and many of them are expected to fly home during the Christmas holidays.

Eric Tayag, head of the National Epidemiology Center, said the departments of health, environment and agriculture had been monitoring the Hong Kong situation and had contingency measures in place.

“We are keeping tabs on the situation,” Tayag said on radio station DZBB.

Hong Kong on Thursday reported its first human case of avian flu since 2003, and warned there was “high risk” that people could contract the potentially fatal disease in the territory.

The infected 59-year-old woman tested positive for Influenza A (H5), a variant of bird flu, and was in a serious condition in a hospital isolation ward Thursday.

The World Health Organization said that since 2003, over 500 human cases have been reported in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.

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