The Department of Health (DH) has been closely monitoring overseas outbreaks of Ebola virus disease (EVD), and updated the EVD-affected areas today (August 28) in response to an outbreak in Équateur reported by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the WHO, 24 suspected cases of haemorrhagic fever (including 13 deaths) were identified in Équateur of the DRC from July 28 to August 18. Human-to-human transmission has been established. As cases so far had no travel history to or contact with persons returning from affected areas in West Africa, the WHO was of the view at this time that the outbreak in the DRC was unrelated to that ongoing in West Africa.
As of August 20, a total of 2 615 cases (including 1 427 deaths) have been reported in the four West African countries, namely Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
"In view of the latest development, the DH updated the affected areas in the reporting criteria of EVD to include Guinea, Liberia, Lagos of Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Équateur of the DRC, while other reporting criteria remained unchanged. The public should avoid unnecessary travel to affected areas. Travel advice will be uploaded to the front page of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) (www.chp.gov.hk/en) and the Travel Health Service (THS) (www.travelhealth.gov.hk/eindex.html), as well as the Outbound Travel Alert website (www.sb.gov.hk/eng/ota) of the Security Bureau," a spokesman for the DH said.
Locally, prevention and control measures against EVD are well in place, including:
* Strengthened surveillance of patients with EVD symptoms who had travel history to any one of the affected areas within 21 days before onset;
*Although there are no direct flights from the affected areas (including the DRC) to Hong Kong, DH has requested airlines to broadcast health messages on all incoming flights to alert travellers;
* Immigration officers at all boundary control points assist in identifying arrival passengers holding travel documents issued by the affected areas (including the DRC) and provide them with EVD information sheets; and
* Symptomatic travellers returning from affected areas are reminded to call 999 and inform the staff of their condition to arrange consultation in Accident and Emergency Department.
"The CHP will issue letters to doctors and hospitals to inform them of the update. We will closely monitor latest overseas developments and the WHO's recommendations," the spokesman added.
There is currently no vaccine available for EVD. The public should avoid unnecessary travel to affected areas, and observe good personal and environmental hygiene during travel:
* Always use liquid soap or alcohol-based hand rub to clean hands before touching the eyes, nose and mouth;
* Avoid close contact with fever or sick patients, and contact with blood or body fluids of patients, including items which may have come into contact with patients' blood or body fluids;
* Avoid contact with animals; and
* Cook food thoroughly before consumption.
The public should also pay attention to hygiene practices below:
* Exercise proper wound management. Clean broken skin immediately and cover it properly with waterproof adhesive dressings. Wash hands before and after touching wounds;
* Put on appropriate personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks when handling respiratory secretions, vomitus or excreta;
* Use absorbent disposable towels to wipe away obvious contaminants as soon as possible, then disinfect the surface and neighbouring areas with appropriate disinfectant such as diluted household bleach (by adding one part of household bleach containing 5.25 per cent sodium hypochlorite to 49 parts of water), leave for 15 to 30 minutes, rinse with water and then keep dry; and
* Put contaminants into a plastic bag, seal it up and discard into a garbage bin with lid. Perform hand hygiene immediately and thoroughly after taking off gloves.
The public may visit the pages below for more disease information and travel advice:
* the CHP's EVD page (www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/34199.html);
* the CHP's list of EVD-affected areas (www.chp.gov.hk/files/pdf/evd_affected_area.pdf);
* the THS' Travel Health News (www.travelhealth.gov.hk/english/outbreaknews/outbreaknews.html); and
* the WHO's EVD page (www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/en/).
Ends/Thursday, August 28, 2014
Issued at HKT 09:49