[Source: Centre for Health Protection, Hong Kong PRC SAR, full page: (LINK).]


Three cases of suspected Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) test negative for MERS Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)


The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) is today (May 8) investigating three suspected cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) whose respiratory specimens all tested negative for MERS Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and called on the public to stay alert and maintain good personal, food and environmental hygiene during travel.

The latest case was notified by Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) today and involves a 25-year-old woman. The patient, with good past health, travelled with her mother to Dubai from April 21 to 24. The patient developed cough and runny nose since May 1 and fever on May 6. She had no contact with animals or patients during her trip.

She was admitted to PMH yesterday (May 7) for treatment. Her current condition is stable. Her nasopharyngeal aspirate was negative for MERS-CoV upon preliminary laboratory testing by the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Services Branch (PHLSB). Her mother has remained asymptomatic.

The second case was notified by Queen Mary Hospital (QMH) last night and involves a 38-year-old man. The patient travelled to Dubai from April 26 to 28 and to London, the United Kingdom, from April 30 to May 6. He has presented with sweating and shortness of breath since May 5. He had no known exposure to animals or patients during his journey.

He was admitted to QMH yesterday for treatment. His current condition is stable. His nasopharyngeal aspirate was negative for MERS-CoV upon preliminary laboratory testing by the PHLSB.

The remaining case, which was announced last night, involves a 59-year-old woman. She was admitted to Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital yesterday and is now in stable condition. Her nasopharyngeal aspirates were negative for MERS-CoV upon PHLSB's preliminary laboratory testing.

The patient, with underlyng medical conditions, has presented with double vision since April 29. She travelled to Tunisia with her husband from April 26 to May 5, with both flights transited at Dubai. During her trip, she had a camel ride on April 28. Her husband has remained 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," a spokesman for the DH remarked.
"As pre-existing major illnesses can increase the likelihood of medical problems, including MERS, during travel, in view of recent pilgrimage activities, pilgrims should consult a healthcare provider before travelling to assess whether it is medically advisable," the spokesman advised.

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 are tested 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 stressed.

"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 remarked.

Early identification of MERS-CoV is important, but not all cases can be detected in a timely manner, especially mild or atypical cases. Healthcare 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. Healthcare workers should arrange MERS-CoV testing for them. Patients' lower respiratory tract specimens should be tested when possible and repeat testing should be done 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 camel markets;
  • 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 drink raw milk, or consume food which may be contaminated by animal secretions or products, unless they have been properly cooked, washed or peeled;
  • Seek medical consultation immediately if feeling unwell;
  • Avoid visit to healthcare 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 (www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/26511.html), the DH's Travel Health Service (www.travelhealth.gov.hk/english/popup/popup.html ) or the latest news of the World Health Organization (www.who.int/csr/don/archive/disease/coronavirus_infections/en/ ) 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 (www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/26551.html ).


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