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Opening remarks by SFH on human swine flu

      Following is a transcript of opening remarks made by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, on human swine flu at a stand-up media session at Murray Building today (April 26):

      In view of reports on human swine flu in the United States and the outbreak in Mexico, particularly in Mexico City area, we are very concerned whether this will be the early phase of a pandemic.  That's why we have activated our plan for emergency preparedness for pandemic.  Today we have held the first meeting of the steering committee regarding pandemic preparedness.  We are concerned about the new virus.  We have decided the following:

      * We have escalated our level of alert from "alert" to "serious";

      * We shall in the next couple of days put the human swine flu onto the list of notifiable disease, so that both public and private doctors have to notify the Department of Health the disease and ensure we have proper handling of those new cases;

      * We shall heighten the vigilance at our borders to tackle particularly those people travelling from the infected places.  When they come to Hong Kong, we will have health advice and health check, including temperature check, when they land in Hong Kong;

      * We shall increase public education and information, including radio and television APIs;

      * According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the new virus has a new DNA sequencing.  That is why at the moment, we still need two to three days before we can ascertain and confirm the tests of human swine flu.  We would like to increase our investigation and try to develop new tests, the PCR fast tests, so that we can have a more efficient system to deal with diagnosis and the surge capacity in case of need.

      * We will continue to liaise with the Mainland authorities, the Ministry of Health, WHO and the health authorities of other countries;

      * As this is a novel virus, there is no confirmed vaccine developed so far.  We also need to keep in view of the development in this area and as soon as we know whether there is an effective vaccine, we will try to consider purchasing it;

      * As this virus is not actually affecting pigs directly, and it will not be transmitted through pork, I can assure the public that consumption of pork is not going to lead to any infection. But despite that, we have also increased our vigilance on local farms and slaughterhouses, in order to protect our farmers and slaughter staff.

Ends/Sunday, April 26, 2009
Issued at HKT 18:57


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