Published: Saturday 15 May 1999

A new strain of the influenza A virus ( h9n2 ) has been discovered in two patients by the virus unit of the Hong Kong department of health. The two patients are girls, aged one and four, who recovered fully from an influenza-like illness in March. A typical influenza virus was cultured from clinical specimens of their throat secretions with the enhanced influenza surveillance system. The system was set up to monitor the avian flu situation in Hong Kong in late 1997. Results made available confirmed that the virus was h9n2 .

The specimens were sent to the World Health Organisation ( who ) Influenza Collaborating Reference Laboratories in the uk and the us for further identification. "This is the first time the h9n2 virus, an avian influenza virus, has been identified in humans in Hong Kong," said deputy director of health Paul Saw. This virus is sensitive to the drugs amantadine and remantadine, he said.

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