Three suspected cases of MERS

Hong Kong (HKSAR) - The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) is today (July 28) investigating two suspected cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) affecting a 34-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman, and called on the public to stay alert and maintain good personal, food and environmental hygiene during travel. In addition, the CHP provided an update on the suspected case of MERS notified yesterday (July 27). The 2-year-old boy's respiratory specimen tested negative for MERS Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

The first patient is a 34-year-old man with good past health.

He travelled from Pakistan to Hong Kong via Dubai yesterday and arrived in Hong Kong today. He has presented with fever and vomiting and was screened to have fever at the Hong Kong International Airport today. He was subsequently transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital for isolation.

He is currently in stable condition.

The second patient is a 45-year-old woman with good past health. She returned to Hong Kong from Paris via Dubai on July 25 and arrived in Hong Kong on July 26. She has presented with fever and diarrhoea since yesterday and was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital for isolation today.

She is currently in stable condition.

Both patients' respiratory specimens have been collected for laboratory testing by the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Services Branch (PHLSB). Their travel collaterals have remained asymptomatic.

Regarding the suspected case of MERS notified yesterday, the 2-year-old boy's nasopharyngeal aspirate tested negative for MERS-CoV upon preliminary laboratory testing by the CHP's PHLSB. The patient travelled with his family from Dubai to Hong Kong on July 23.

He has presented with fever since July 24 and cough since July 26. He was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital on July 26 and has been in stable condition. His travel collaterals remain asymptomatic.

"We strongly advise travel agents organising tours to the Middle East not to arrange camel rides and activities involving camel contact, which may increase the risk of infection.

In addition, travellers are reminded to avoid going to farms, barns or markets with camels, and avoid contact with animals, especially camels, birds, poultry or sick people during travel," a spokesman for the DH said.

"Recent scientific studies supported the premise that camels served as the primary source of MERS Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infecting humans. A study further suggested that human MERS-CoV infections could be transmitted through close contact with infected camels," the spokesman explained.

Locally, the DH's surveillance mechanism with public and private hospitals, practising doctors and at the airport is well in place. Suspected cases identified will be sent to public hospitals for isolation and management until their specimens test negative for MERS-CoV.

"MERS is a statutorily notifiable infectious disease and the PHLSB is capable of detecting the virus.

No human cases have been recorded so far in Hong Kong," the spokesman said.

"The Government will be as transparent as possible in the dissemination of information. 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 added.

Early identification of MERS-CoV is important, but not all cases can be detected in a timely manner, especially mild or atypical cases. Health-care workers (HCWs) should maintain vigilance and adhere to strict infection control measures while handling suspected or confirmed cases to reduce the risk of transmission to other patients, HCWs or visitors.

Regular education should be provided.

Travellers returning from the Middle East who develop respiratory symptoms should wear face masks, seek medical attention and report their travel history to the doctor. HCWs should arrange MERS-CoV testing for them. Patients' lower respiratory tract specimens should be tested when possible and repeat testing should be undertaken when clinical and epidemiological clues strongly suggest MERS.

Travellers are reminded to take heed of personal, food and environmental hygiene:

* Avoid going to farms, barns, or markets with camels;
* Avoid contact with animals (especially camels), birds, poultry or sick people during travel;
* Wash hands regularly before and after touching animals in case of visits to farms or barns;
* Do not consume raw or undercooked animal products, including milk and meat, or foods which may be contaminated by animal secretions, excretions (such as urine) or products, unless they have been properly cooked, washed or peeled;
* Seek medical consultation immediately if feeling unwell;
* Avoid visits to health-care settings with MERS patients;
* Wash hands before touching the eyes, nose and mouth, and after sneezing, coughing or cleaning the nose; and
* Wash hands before eating or handling food, and after using the toilet.

The public may visit the CHP's MERS page (, the DH's Travel Health Service ( or the latest news of the World Health Organization ( for more information and health advice.

Tour leaders and tour guides operating overseas tours are advised to refer to the CHP's health advice against MERS (

Published on: 2014-07-28

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