The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's government here on Thursday held an inter- departmental communication exercise to review its response to a situation of a human case of avian flu.
According to Hong Kong Director of Health Dr. P.Y. Lam, the drill, with a particular focus on communication, was aimed at reviewing contingency plans for managing issues relating to an outbreak of avian influenza when the World Health Organization ( WHO) announced efficient human-to-human transmission.
The adequacy of contingency operational protocols formulated by the departments and organizations concerned will be reviewed after the exercise, said Lam.
The exercise, code-named Poplar, was organized by the CHP in view of the global threat of flu pandemic and human cases of avian flu in neighboring countries. More than 220 players from about 30 government departments and organizations took part in the drill.
The exercise simulated a Hong Kong resident who developed flu symptoms after visiting a country where 41 people were confirmed to have been infected with avian flu and human-to-human transmission was efficient.
After flying back to Hong Kong, the "patient" was taken to Princess Margaret Hospital and was later confirmed as being infected with avian flu H5N1.
Receiving notification from the Hong Kong Hospital Authority, the Center for Health Protection of the Department of Health of Hong Kong immediately swung into action.
The government started epidemiological investigation and contact tracing for people in Hong Kong who had contacted the " patient," which included passengers in the same flight, healthcare workers and patient contacts at the hospital as well as his wife.
At the same time, in view of the detection of a local case and the confirmation by WHO of human-to-human transmission in the region, Hong Kong Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Dr. York Chow activated the Emergency Response Level, in accordance with the Emergency Preparedness plan for Influenza Pandemic in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang also convened a high level steering committee to give directive on the overall disease control strategy and decide on major stringent measures with a wider impact on the community.
Commenting on the exercise, Tsang said: "Today's drill is one of our important preparatory measures. It tested our responsiveness in terms of efficiency and appropriateness in a worst case scenario.
"After today's experience, we will be able to respond to any outbreak in a more timely and appropriate manner".
He also said that Hong Kong remained free of avian flu despite outbreaks in Europe and Asia and stressed that Hong Kong was well prepared for a possible outbreak of the disease.