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Interdepartmental meeting on latest risk assessment, prevention and control of infectious disease (with photos)

     The Secretary for Food and Health chaired an interdepartmental meeting on infectious disease this morning (October 20) on the latest local risk assessment and prevention and control measures against Ebola virus disease (EVD), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, avian influenza and dengue fever with the Department of Health (DH), the Hospital Authority, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to better safeguard Hong Kong from infectious diseases.

     The World Health Organization (WHO) declared on August 8 the EVD outbreak in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The WHO's Emergency Committee met twice and recommended Member States not to apply any international travel or trade restrictions, but education to travellers and the public as well as the enhancement of detection, investigation and management of EVD cases. The WHO also appealed to affected countries to better engage the transport sector for screening of outbound travellers, and to ensure adequate protection and training for health-care workers.

     As of October 17, a total of 9 216 EVD cases have been reported to the WHO, including 4 555 deaths. The other outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has recorded 68 cases so far, including 49 deaths. Locally, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the DH has been notified of only one suspected EVD case thus far whose specimen tested negative for Ebola virus.

     "The Preparedness and Response Plan for EVD of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has been launched on August 20 and the Alert Response Level has been activated in parallel. While the risk of importation of EVD to Hong Kong exists, members of the public should remain vigilant. We again urge travellers to avoid unnecessary travel to affected countries," said the Controller of the CHP, Dr Leung Ting-hung, at a press conference after the interdepartmental meeting.

Enhanced surveillance

     In Hong Kong, EVD has been a statutorily notifiable infectious disease under viral haemorrhagic fever under the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance (Cap 599) since July 2008. Any suspected or confirmed case is statutorily required to be notified to the CHP.

     "Taking into account the WHO's latest recommendations and epidemiological experience of overseas cases, the CHP will revise the reporting criteria of EVD cases, lowering the body temperature of fever patients suspected of having EVD from 38 degrees Celsius to 37.5 degrees C, with a view to broadening surveillance over patients with low-grade fever possibly at the early stage of infection of Ebola virus," Dr Leung explained.

     The CHP will issue letters to doctors and private hospitals across the territory on the revision of reporting criteria and solicit their support to promptly notify suspected cases to the CHP.

Enhanced public education

     The DH has been closely working with its partners to provide regular updates on the latest disease situation and solicit their collaboration in disseminating health information. They are government bureaux/departments, including the Home Affairs Department, the Transport Department and the Housing Department; District Councils; Healthy Cities projects at the district level; and non-governmental organisations.

     Targeting specific population groups, including the local African community, the CHP earlier visited guesthouses in relevant buildings to deliver health advice, pamphlets and posters, followed by health talks and briefings for representatives of guesthouses in Yau Tsim Mong District as well as management companies and owners' corporations of relevant buildings.

     The CHP held briefings for private hospitals and relevant government departments as well as the hotel and guesthouse industry to provide updates on the latest epidemiology of, infection control for and preparedness against EVD. Health talks have also been delivered to community organisations, hotel and guesthouse operators, public and private property management bodies and transport operators.

     "The DH will continue to closely monitor the latest developments of the overseas situation and communicate with the WHO as well as the Mainland and neighbouring health authorities to exchange information and updates on preventive and control measures, and will modify the local response and health surveillance if necessary," Dr Leung added.

Ends/Monday, October 20, 2014
Issued at HKT 18:51


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