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Update on local response to latest MERS situation

     The Controller of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health, Dr Leung Ting-hung, today (May 29) reported the latest local response to the first confirmed case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) exported from Korea to Mainland China.

     "After the male Korean patient aged 44 was laboratory-confirmed by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, we continue with our ongoing epidemiological investigations which started yesterday (May 28) in advance," Dr Leung said.

     As of 6pm today, the CHP's contact tracing located all 29 close contacts and 11 other contacts of the patient.

(A) Close contacts

     Among 158 passengers onboard OZ723 of Asiana Airlines who travelled from Korea and arrived in Hong Kong at around 1pm on May 26, 81 were in the same cabin with the patient, of which 29 were within two rows of the patient and are classified as close contacts.

     So far, 18 who were asymptomatic have been located and the CHP is arranging them to be placed under quarantine.

     The Lady MacLehose Holiday Village in Sai Kung under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department has been converted to a quarantine centre for the quarantine of asymptomatic close contacts.

     The remaining 11 have departed Hong Kong and the CHP has informed relevant health authorities.

(B) Other contacts

     Other contacts have been put under medical surveillance and they include:

* Five other passengers onboard OZ723, two of whom with mild respiratory symptoms now hospitalised tested negative for MERS Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). One developed mild symptoms before exposure to the patient and health advice has been given. The remaining two were asymptomatic;
* Regarding the bus (plate number: PJ 2595) which operated by Eternal East Cross-Border Coach Mgt. Ltd. departed at 3pm on May 26 from Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) to Sha Tau Kok, a member of ticketing staff with mild respiratory symptoms now hospitalised tested negative for MERS-CoV, while the driver was asymptomatic;
* One asymptomatic passenger onboard the bus (plate number: HN 5211) of the same operator which departed at 4.46pm on the same day from Sha Tau Kok to Huizhou, Guangdong;
* Two asymptomatic immigration officers at HKIA and Sha Tau Kok Control Point respectively; and
* A nurse at HKIA with mild respiratory symptoms tested negative for MERS-CoV as reported yesterday who has been discharged.

     Contact tracing is ongoing with the assistance of the airline and bus operator concerned as well as the Immigration Department.

     "We again strongly appeal to passengers onboard OZ723 of Asiana Airlines who travelled from Korea and arrived in Hong Kong at around 1pm on May 26, and those onboard the three vehicles operated by Eternal East Cross-Border Coach Mgt. Ltd. on the same day to call our hotline on 2125 1111 for further assessment or follow-up. It will operate till 9pm today and from 9am to 6pm on May 30 and 31," Dr Leung said.

     In addition, the CHP is closely monitoring two additional MERS cases reported by the health authority of Korea.

     The eighth case is a female member of staff in the clinic where the first case was managed while the ninth is an in-patient of the ward to which the first case was admitted.

     According to updated information from the health authority of Korea and the World Health Organization (WHO), the first case in Korea attended out-patient clinic from May 12 to 15 and was admitted to hospital on May 15.

     "We will maintain close communication with the WHO and the health authorities of Korea and the Mainland. Members of the public and the healthcare sector should heighten vigilance and stay alert to the latest situation," Dr Leung said.

     On the other hand, a meeting of expert panel jointed by the Hospital Authority (HA) and the CHP, which included microbiologist and infection control experts, was convened this afternoon to discuss the contingency measures for handling MERS.

     The frontline healthcare staff of Accident & Emergency Departments and General Out-patient Clinics have been alerted to stay vigilant to patients who may have MERS symptoms and are advised to pay special attention to their travel history. The HA also appealed to those who may have MERS symptoms to clearly state their travel history. Isolation wards of public hospitals are ready to receive patients with suspected MERS symptoms and the HA will continue to closely liaise with the CHP to monitor the situation.

Ends/Friday, May 29, 2015
Issued at HKT 21:48


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