Mar 28, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – Hong Kong officials concluded that a baby girl who was recently infected with H9N2 avian influenza—a strain believed to have pandemic potential—probably contracted it from birds, according to recent reports.A 9-month-old girl who was hospitalized with respiratory symptoms twice in recent weeks tested positive for an H9N2 infection Mar 20. The girl had only a mild illness but was treated in isolation at Princess Margaret Hospital, the Hong Kong Department of Health reported in a Mar 22 statement. At the time of her second hospitalization she had respiratory syncytial virus, the statement said.Dr. Thomas Tsang, controller of the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection, said tests had ruled out the possibility of human-to-human transmission in the girl’s case, according to a Mar 24 news release from Hong Kong’s Information Services Department.Tsang said genetic analysis of the H9N2 virus showed that it was entirely of avian origin, suggesting that the child contracted it directly from a bird, the release said. Because the girl had no contact with wild birds before her illness, she may have caught the virus at a bird market that she visited several times with her family, Tsang said.He also said tests on respiratory specimens from a healthcare worker and three children who were in the same hospital cubicle with the baby in early March tested negative for H9 viruses, and her family had no symptoms.Meanwhile, leading virologist Robert Webster warned this week that H9N2 is an “insidious” virus that needs close monitoring because it could trigger an outbreak in humans, according to a Mar 27 Bloomberg News report.H9N2 is far less known than the deadly Asian strain of H5N1 virus, which has killed at least 169 people and millions of poultry in Asia and Africa in the past few years. But Webster told Bloomberg, “H9N2 is an insidious virus. This is the one that’s far more dangerous in some ways. It doesn’t get much attention because it doesn’t kill chickens and doesn’t kill humans.”He said H9N2 can spread among pigs and infects chickens without making them sick. On the “hit list” of viruses, he added, “H5N1 is at [the] top, and H9N2 is right behind. Then come H7N7 and H2N2.”At least three cases of H9N2 illness, all of them mild, have occurred in Hong Kong children in recent years. Two girls were infected in 1999 and a 5-year-old boy had the virus in 2003.Robert L. Atmar, MD, a Baylor College of Medicine professor who has participated in clinical trials of an H9N2 vaccine, said human H9N2 illnesses may be less rare than the record suggests. Seroprevalence studies in China in the 1990s found H9 antibodies in 2% to 3% of the population, which suggests that some cases are missed, he told CIDRAP News via e-mail.Atmar, a professor in the Departments of Medicine and of Molecular Virology and Microbiology, also commented that the finding of a case in a 9-month-old child was “a little surprising unless she was toddling around the market. Usually, cases of avian influenza have followed close contact with infected poultry. H9N2 viruses are common in bird markets.”See also:Mar 20 CIDRAP News story “Baby in Hong Kong infected with H9N2 avian flu”Journal of Clinical Microbiology report on Hong Kong H9N2 case in 2003
The government has launched tax incentives for the manufacturing industry, including individual income tax exemptions, import tax deferrals and corporate tax discounts.Earlier in April, the government also launched the preemployment card program, a mix of unemployment benefit and skill-training program, to provide benefits worth Rp 3.5 million (US$236.66) for people whose jobs or small businesses are affected by the outbreak.“The incentives will be given on the condition there are no layoffs,” said Airlangga, who also serves as Golkar Party chairman. “We hope all the incentives can serve as a cushion to protect our workers.”The government has also reduced employment insurance payments for companies that keep on their workers. Firms can get 90 percent reductions both for work accident and life insurance payments.“By easing the insurance payments, we hope companies can fulfil their obligation to pay [the Idul Fitri] holiday bonus,” Manpower Minister Ida Fauziyah said in the same online briefing.Topics : Factory activity has collapsed with only one third of manufacturing companies and workers operating at present, a high-ranking official has said.Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto said on Thursday that 15,000 manufacturing companies were still operating at present out of a total of 40,000 in normal times.Meanwhile, 4.7 million workers in the manufacturing sector are still working out of the usual 17 million in the sector, which contributes around 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, the minister added. “We hope companies will be back in operation when the situation returns to normal,” Airlangga told an online briefing on Thursday, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.Many businesses in the country have temporarily shut down or are functioning at minimum capacity to comply with the government’s stay-at-home order to contain the fast-spreading coronavirus, which has infected over 10,100 people nationwide.As a result, the country’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), a monthly survey of trends in the manufacturing sector, recorded a contraction to 45.3 from 51.9 between February and March, the steepest decline since the survey began in 2011.Moreover, as many as 2.2 million people are out of work, according to Manpower Ministry data last updated on April 20. More than half are formal sector workers furloughed or laid off by 43,690 firms.
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