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Beware of stings - protect ourselves from vector-borne diseases (with photo)

     The Director of Health, Dr Constance Chan, today (April 3) called on the public to stay vigilant and take necessary preventive measures against vector-borne diseases, whether in Hong Kong or travelling abroad, as summer is approaching fast.

     At a press conference titled "World Health Day (WHD) 2014 - vector-borne diseases" today, Dr Chan said that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), vector-borne diseases are infectious and affect people worldwide. More than half of the world's population is at risk from vector-borne diseases. Every year there were more than one billion cases, leading to over one million deaths.

     "Locally, common vector-borne diseases are the mosquito-borne dengue fever (DF), Japanese encephalitis (JE) and malaria, the mite-borne scrub typhus, and the tick-borne spotted fever. From 2004 to 2013, there were 505 cases of DF, 19 cases of JE and 311 cases of malaria, 191 cases of scrub typhus and 159 cases of spotted fever recorded in Hong Kong. DF is also an endemic disease in various popular tourist destinations for Hong Kong people including the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore," Dr Chan said.

     "Health risks associated with these diseases can be greatly reduced with simple preventive measures, such as avoiding bites by vectors, protecting ourselves when travelling, and preventing vector proliferation. Whether in Hong Kong or travelling abroad, people should take measures to prevent vector-borne diseases," Dr Chan added.

     To prevent vector-borne diseases, protecting ourselves from stings or bites by mosquitoes, ticks and mites is important. People should wear loose, light-coloured long-sleeved tops and trousers, use DEET-containing insect repellents on exposed parts of the body and clothing, and enhance prevention when taking part in outdoor activities or going to scrubby areas.

     The public should also stay vigilant when travelling abroad. When visiting areas where vector-borne diseases are prevalent, travellers are advised to arrange travel health consultation with doctors at least six weeks before the journey for risk assessment. During the trip, they should keep taking preventive measures against vectors. In case of feeling unwell upon returning to Hong Kong, they should also seek medical attention as early as possible.

     "Vector-borne diseases" is the theme of this year's WHD of the WHO, which is aimed at raising public awareness of the threats posed by vectors and vector-borne diseases and stimulating families and communities to take action to protect themselves. Locally, the Department of Health (DH) will launch the "Beware of stings - protect ourselves from vector-borne diseases" campaign in collaboration with various government bureaux and departments, and other partners to echo with the WHO.

     Also attending the press conference, the Assistant Director of Health (Health Promotion), Dr Anne Fung, released some key findings on vector-borne diseases from the Personal and Environmental Hygiene Survey 2014 conducted by the DH.

     "The Survey reveals that the public generally possess a good understanding of vector-borne diseases. More than 84 per cent can correctly point out that preventing mosquito bites and vector proliferation were effective measures to avoid DF and JE. More than 85 per cent of the respondents were aware of the threats posed by both diseases in Hong Kong and other neighbouring areas," Dr Fung said.

     The Survey also found that in the past six months, over 30 per cent of respondents did not wear light-coloured long-sleeved tops and trousers during local outings while over 45 per cent did not do so when travelling in tropical or sub-tropical areas. About 50 per cent of them did not apply insect repellents on exposed parts of the body, set up mosquito nets or screens in accommodation without air-conditioning during local outings and when travelling in tropical or sub-tropical areas.

     "The Survey reflects that the public are well aware of the threats associated with vector-borne diseases but they do not adopt appropriate preventive measures to reduce the risk of infection. Therefore, I would like to remind the public that by taking simple preventive measures, we can better protect ourselves from vector-borne diseases," Dr Fung said.

     Turning to the prevention of vector proliferation, the Pest Control Officer-in-charge of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), Mr Yuen Ming-chi, emphasised at today's press conference that the most effective method to prevent mosquito breeding is to avoid the accumulation of stagnant water.

     "Ensuring a stagnant water-free environment can greatly reduce the chance of mosquito breeding. The public should dispose of all used containers properly, cover water containers tightly, change the water in vases and containers with flowers or water plants once a week, ensure air-conditioner drip trays are free of stagnant water, and clear away the water from the saucers under potted plants every week," he said.

     "The public can apply DEET-containing insect repellents for personal protection when performing outdoor activities. Repellent users should observe the instructions on the product label and apply the repellent on exposed parts of the body and clothing. The product should not be applied on irritated, burnt and wounded skin and repellent should be removed when protection is no longer required," Mr Yuen added.

     Also at the press conference today were radio programme hosts Miss Jessica Ho and Mr Ken Yuen. Miss Ho shared her interesting experiences and quick tips for preventing vector bites when travelling abroad. Mr Ken Yuen offered useful health advice for hiking trips to scrubby areas.

     The campaign is supported by about 50 partners including supporting organisations from health care and related sectors, and eight core partners, namely the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, the Development Bureau (Works Branch), the Education Bureau, the FEHD, the Home Affairs Department, the Housing Department, the Lands Department and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. A series of events for promotion and public education, such as forums, carnivals and talks will be organised starting this month.

     To learn more about the WHD and vector-borne diseases, please visit the WHD Page of the Centre for Health Protection of the DH ( or call the DH's 24-hour Health Education Hotline (2833 0111).

Ends/Thursday, April 3, 2014
Issued at HKT 17:27


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