Fever patient with travel history tests negative for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) today (September 11) received notification from a private hospital of a suspected case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome affecting a man aged 24 whose respiratory specimen tested negative for the virus.

     The patient, with good past health, presented with cough, running nose and sore throat on September 7, followed by fever the next day (September 8). He attended an out-patient clinic of a private hospital today and was referred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital for isolation and management. He is currently in stable condition.

     Initial enquiries by the CHP revealed that the patient had travelled to Iran from September 3 to 6, during which he had no exposure to animals or patients. He subsequently travelled to Shenyang, Liaoning, from September 6 to 10. His home contacts have so far remained asymptomatic.

     His nasopharyngeal aspirate tested negative for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus upon preliminary laboratory testing by Public Health Laboratory Services Branch of the CHP.

     Locally, the CHP will continue its surveillance mechanism with public and private hospitals, practising doctors and the airport for any suspected case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

     "No human infection with this virus has been identified so far in Hong Kong," the DH spokesman stressed.

     "We would like to reassure the public that the Government will be as transparent as possible in the dissemination of information on cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. 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 said.

     Health-care workers and hospitals are reminded to maintain vigilance against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and adhere to strict infection control measures while handling suspected cases in order to reduce the risk of transmission to other patients, health-care workers and visitors.

     Recent travellers returning from the Middle East who develop severe acute respiratory infections should be tested for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. Patients' lower respiratory tract specimens should also be obtained for diagnosis when possible. Doctors are reminded that Middle East Respiratory Syndrome should be considered even with atypical signs and symptoms, such as diarrhoea, particularly in patients who are immunocompromised.

     Travellers should avoid contact with animals, poultry or sick people during travel and seek medical consultation immediately if feeling unwell.

     As a general precautionary measure, they should also adhere to food safety and environmental hygiene practices such as avoiding undercooked meats, raw fruits and vegetables, unless they have been peeled, and unsafe water. Those returning from the Middle East with respiratory symptoms are advised to wear face masks, seek medical attention and reveal their travel history to doctors.

     Pilgrims visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are reminded that pre-existing major illnesses can increase the likelihood of medical problems, including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, during travel. Thus, pilgrims should consult a health-care provider before travelling to review the risk and assess whether making the pilgrimage is medically advisable.

     Relevant health advice can be found under "Current Travel Health News" on the website of the DH's Travel Health Service (www.travelhealth.gov.hk/english/outbreaknews/outbreaknews.html).

     Members of the public are also reminded to take heed of personal hygiene:

* Wash hands before touching the eyes, nose and mouth;
* Wash hands before eating or handling food;
* Wash hands after using the toilet;
* Wash hands after sneezing or coughing and cleaning the nose; and
* Avoid direct contact with animals, birds or poultry.

     The public may visit the CHP website for more information on Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/26511.html) and personal hygiene (www.chp.gov.hk/en/content/9/460/19899.html).

Ends/Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Issued at HKT 18:05