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Patient with respiratory symptoms tests negative for MERS-CoV

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) today (March 19) provided an update on a suspected case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) affecting a 22-year-old man. His respiratory specimen tested negative for MERS Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

     "MERS cases reported by the Middle East have been on the rise in the past two months and cases exported to other areas by travellers, migrant workers or pilgrims are also likely. The health-care sector and the public should pay special attention. As camels serve as the primary source of infection, we again urge the public not to join camel rides and activities with camel contact," a spokesman for the DH said.

     To date, 1 060 laboratory-confirmed MERS cases have been reported to the WHO globally, including at least 394 deaths. Among them, 1,035 cases were confirmed in nine Middle East countries including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (927 cases), the United Arab Emirates (70 cases), Jordan (12 cases), Qatar (11 cases), Iran (five cases), Oman (five cases), Kuwait (three cases), Lebanon (one case) and Yemen (one case).

     The patient, who had good past health, had travelled to Dubai from March 1 to 7. He has developed fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose and shortness of breath since March 15 and was admitted to Tseung Kwan O Hospital for isolation and treatment yesterday. He is now in a stable condition.

     His nasopharyngeal aspirate tested negative for MERS-CoV upon preliminary laboratory testing by the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Services Branch (PHLSB).

     "We strongly advise travel agents organising tours to the Middle East not to arrange camel rides and activities involving camel contact, which may increase the risk of infection. Travellers should avoid going to farms, barns or markets with camels, and avoid contact with animals (especially camels), birds, poultry or sick people during travel," a spokesman for the DH said.

     "Scientific studies support the premise that camels serve as the primary source of MERS-CoV infecting humans. A study further suggested that human MERS-CoV infections could be transmitted through close contact with infected camels," the spokesman added.

     Locally, the DH's surveillance mechanism with public and private hospitals, with practising doctors and at boundary control points is firmly in place. Suspected cases identified will be sent to public hospitals for isolation and management until their specimens test negative for MERS-CoV.

     "MERS is a statutorily notifiable infectious disease and the PHLSB is capable of detecting the virus. No human cases have been recorded so far in Hong Kong," the spokesman said.

     "The Government will be as transparent as possible in the dissemination of information. 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 added.

     Early identification of MERS-CoV is important, but not all cases can be detected in a timely manner, especially mild or atypical cases. Health-care workers (HCWs) should maintain vigilance and adhere to strict infection control measures while handling suspected or confirmed cases to reduce the risk of transmission to other patients, HCWs or visitors. Regular education should be provided.

     Travellers returning from the Middle East who develop respiratory symptoms should wear face masks, seek medical attention and report their travel history to the doctor. HCWs should arrange MERS-CoV testing for them. Patients' lower respiratory tract specimens should be tested when possible and repeat testing should be undertaken when clinical and epidemiological clues strongly suggest MERS.

     Travellers are reminded to take heed of personal, food and environmental hygiene:

* Avoid going to farms, barns or markets with camels;
* Avoid contact with animals (especially camels), birds, poultry or sick people during travel;
* Wash hands regularly before and after touching animals in case of visits to farms or barns;
* Do not consume raw or undercooked animal products, including milk and meat, or foods which may be contaminated by animal secretions, excretions (such as urine) or products, unless they have been properly cooked, washed or peeled;
* Seek medical consultation immediately if feeling unwell;
* Avoid visits to health-care settings with MERS patients;
* Wash hands before touching the eyes, nose and mouth, and after sneezing, coughing or cleaning the nose; and
* Wash hands before eating or handling food, and after using the toilet.

     The public may visit the pages below for more information and health advice:

* The CHP's MERS page (;
* The MERS page of the DH's Travel Health Service (;
* The CHP Facebook Page (;
* The CHP YouTube Channel (; and
* The latest news from the World Health Organization (

     Tour leaders and tour guides operating overseas tours are advised to refer to the CHP's health advice on MERS (

Ends/Thursday, March 19, 2015
Issued at HKT 17:48


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