1 Jan 2014

Hong Kong, Six additional overseas cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome closely monitored by DH (January 1 2014)

[Source: Department of Health, Hong Kong PRC SAR, full page: (LINK).]

Six additional overseas cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome closely monitored by DH

The Department of Health (DH) is today (January 1) closely monitoring six additional cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) (five cases) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (one case).

According to the WHO, the first case in the KSA is a man aged 57 with underlying illnesses who is now under intensive care. The second case is a male patient aged 73 who died on December 17, 2013. Both patients are from the KSA's capital with no travel history. No known exposures to animals or confirmed patients have been identified. The remaining three cases, including two men and one woman, are healthcare workers who are asymptomatic.

Regarding the case in the UAE, the female patient aged 59 is currently hospitalised under isolation. She is asymptomatic with no history of contact with animals or travel history. She is the wife of the male patient aged 68 earlier confirmed with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and the man earlier died.

This brings the latest global number of confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome to 176, including 74 deaths.

"The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the DH will seek more information on the cases from the WHO and the relevant health authorities. The CHP will stay vigilant and continue to work closely with the WHO and overseas health authorities to monitor the latest developments of this disease," a spokesman for the DH said.

Locally, the CHP will continue its surveillance mechanism with public and private hospitals, practising doctors and the airport for any suspected case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

"No human infection with this virus has been identified so far in Hong Kong," the spokesman remarked.

"We would like to reassure the public that the Government will be as transparent as possible in the dissemination of information on cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Whenever there is a suspected case, particularly involving patients with travel history to the Middle East, the CHP will release information to the public as soon as possible," the spokesman stressed.

Healthcare workers and hospitals are reminded to maintain vigilance against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and adhere to strict infection control measures while handling suspected cases in order to reduce the risk of transmission to other patients, healthcare workers and visitors.

Recent travellers returning from the Middle East who develop severe acute respiratory infections should be tested for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. Patients' lower respiratory tract specimens should also be obtained for diagnosis when possible. A majority of patients diagnosed and reported to date have had respiratory disease as their primary illness. Diarrhoea has been commonly reported and severe complications include renal failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome with shock. Doctors are reminded that severely immunocompromised patients might present with atypical signs and symptoms.

Travellers should avoid contact with animals, poultry or sick people during travel and seek medical consultation immediately if feeling unwell. They should also wash hands regularly before and after touching animals when visiting a farm or a barn.

As a general precautionary measure, they should also adhere to food safety and environmental hygiene practices such as avoiding undercooked meats, raw fruits and vegetables, unless they have been peeled, and unsafe water. Those returning from the Middle East with respiratory symptoms are advised to wear face masks, seek medical attention and reveal their travel history to doctors.

Relevant health advice can be found under "Current Travel Health News" on the website of the DH's Travel Health Service (www.travelhealth.gov.hk/english/outbreaknews/outbreaknews.html ).

Members of the public are also reminded to take heed of personal hygiene:

  • Wash hands before touching the eyes, nose and mouth;
  • Wash hands before eating or handling food;
  • Wash hands after using the toilet;
  • Wash hands after sneezing or coughing and cleaning the nose; and
  • Avoid direct contact with animals, birds or poultry.

The public may visit the CHP's website for more information on Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/26511.html ) and personal hygiene (www.chp.gov.hk/en/content/9/460/19899.html ).

Ends/Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Issued at HKT 10:00
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