The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) today (July 30) joined the Hospital Authority at a meeting on local response in view of the latest developments of the overseas outbreaks of Ebola virus disease (EVD).
"As additional EVD cases and deaths have been continuously reported in the Western African region since March 2014, we have been closely monitoring the latest developments. We also call on the public to stay alert and maintain good personal, food and environmental hygiene during travel," a spokesman for the DH remarked.
Epidemiology and surveillance
Regarding local measures, in case of notification of suspected cases, the CHP will immediately commence epidemiological investigation and follow-up. They include:
* Patients will be referred to the Infectious Disease Centre (IDC) of the Hospital Authority (HA) located in Princess Margaret Hospital for isolation, diagnosis and treatment; and
* Specimens will be collected for laboratory testing and confirmation.
Upon laboratory confirmation:
* Close contacts, including corresponding flight passengers and attendants, will be traced;
* Close contacts will be put under medical surveillance and isolation; and
* Symptomatic close contacts will be sent for isolation and testing.
"Viral haemorrhagic fever, including EVD, has been a statutorily notifiable infectious disease since July 2008. No cases have been recorded in Hong Kong so far. The CHP's Public Health Laboratory Services Branch is capable of detecting the virus," the spokesman stressed.
"Ebola virus is one of the haemorrhagic fever viruses. Some fruit bats are considered to be the natural host of the virus. Ebola virus is transmitted from infected animals to humans. It then spreads through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids," the spokesman explained.
Locally, the CHP will issue letters to doctors and hospitals to appeal for vigilance. Suspected cases should be notified to the CHP for early isolation, diagnosis, control and follow-up. Healthcare workers should also exercise strict infection control measures to reduce the risk of transmission.
"Members of the public returning from affected areas should monitor their health conditions within 21 days upon arrival. If symptoms develop, such as fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, rash or bleeding, they should promptly seek medical attention and report their recent travel history to clinicians," the spokesman advised.
The DH's current health surveillance measures at boundary control points are in place. Members of the public or travellers returning from affected areas with compatible symptoms screened by quarantine officers will be considered as EVD as their clinical diagnosis and transferred to the IDC of the HA for follow-up.
"We will maintain close liaison with the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong and the travel industry at large to timely update the trade and travellers of the latest disease information, travel health advice and the risk assessment of the World Health Organization (WHO), which will be uploaded to the DH's website accordingly," the spokesman said.
The WHO's risk assessment revealed that the risk of infection of EVD for the travel and business sectors from affected areas remained very low. However, apart from good personal, food and environmental hygiene, travellers are also advised to avoid direct contact with patients or the deceased, or blood, bodily fluids or organs of infected or dead animals.
There is currently no vaccine for EVD. The DH appealed to the public to take heed of the following preventive measures:
* Observe good personal and environmental hygiene. Wash hands with soap frequently;
* Avoid close contact with feverish or ill persons, and avoid contact with blood or bodily fluids of patients, including items which may have come in contact with an infected person's blood or bodily fluids;
* Avoid contact with animals; and
* Cook food thoroughly before consumption.
The public may visit the CHP's EVD page (www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/34199.html), the Travel Health News in the DH's Travel Health Service website (www.travelhealth.gov.hk/english/outbreaknews/outbreaknews.html) or the WHO's EVD page (www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/en/) for more information and travel advice.
Ends/Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Issued at HKT 19:58