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Fever patients with travel history tests negative for MERS-CoV

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) today (June 8) provided an update on two suspected cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) affecting a woman aged 21 and a man aged 66. Their respiratory specimens tested negative for MERS Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
     The female patient had travelled to Seoul, Korea, on June 3. She attended a local hospital on June 6 due to injury and no admission was required. She attended Princess Margaret Hospital yesterday (June 7) after she returned to Hong Kong.

     The male patient had travelled to Seoul from May 28 to June 6 and attended the out-patient clinic of a local hospital on June 2. He sought medical consultation at Queen Mary Hospital yesterday.

     Both patients were found to have fever in the hospitals. They are now in stable condition.

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

     "Travellers to the Middle East should avoid going to farms, barns or markets with camels, and avoid contact with sick persons and animals, especially camels, birds or poultry. They should also avoid unnecessary visits to health-care facilities (HCFs). In addition, in view of the latest situation in Korea, people with chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus, lung disease, kidney disease, cancer or immune deficiency should not go to Korea. Other travellers should avoid unnecessary visits to HCFs in Korea," a spokesman for the DH said.

     "We strongly advise travel agents organising tours to the Middle East to abstain from arranging camel rides and activities involving direct contact with camels, which are a known risk factor for acquiring MERS. 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," the spokesman said.
     "According to the World Health Organization (WHO), among the recently exported cases in which the patients reported performing Umrah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), investigations revealed that they had either visited an HCF or had come into contact with camels or raw camel products while in the KSA. As Ramadan will begin in mid-June, pilgrims preparing to go to the KSA for Umrah should be vigilant against MERS," the spokesman said.
     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. Health-care workers (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.

     Early identification of MERS-CoV is important, but not all cases can be detected in a timely manner, especially mild or atypical cases. 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 training and education should be provided.
     "Scientific evidence supports the premise that camels are the primary source of MERS-CoV resulting in human infection. A study further suggested that human MERS-CoV infections could occur 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. The DH has also kept ethnic minority and religious groups updated on the disease status and necessary preventive measures.
     "MERS is a statutorily notifiable infectious disease and the PHLSB is capable of detecting the virus. No human cases have been recorded in Hong Kong so far," 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.
     Travellers to affected areas should maintain vigilance, adopt appropriate health precautions and take heed of personal, food and environmental hygiene:
* Avoid unnecessary visits to HCFs in Korea and HCFs with MERS patients in affected areas;
* 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;
* 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 CHP's MERS statistics (;
* List of hospitals with confirmed case(s) of MERS announced by Korea (
* The MERS page of the DH's Travel Health Service (;
* The CHP Facebook Page (;
* The CHP YouTube Channel (; and
* The WHO's latest news (
     Tour leaders and tour guides operating overseas tours are advised to refer to the CHP's health advice on MERS (

Ends/Monday, June 8, 2015
Issued at HKT 14:31


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