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Interdepartmental meeting held on local response to Zika Virus Infection (with photo)

     The Secretary for Food and Health chaired an interdepartmental meeting this morning (February 1) on the latest local risk assessment as well as prevention and control measures against Zika Virus Infection with representatives from the Department of Health (DH), the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, the Hospital Authority and medical experts.

Statutory notification

     Speaking at a joint media briefing after the meeting, the Controller of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the DH, Dr Leung Ting-hung, said, "The Government will publish in the Gazette the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance (Amendment of Schedule 1) Notice 2016 this Friday (February 5) to add Zika Virus Infection as a notifiable infectious disease with immediate effect on the same day to enhance surveillance of this mosquito-borne disease."

     Pursuant to the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance (Cap 599), medical practitioners will be required to notify the Director of Health of any suspected case of Zika Virus Infection. Statutory notification is an important element in disease surveillance, prevention and control. The CHP will issue letters to inform doctors and hospitals of the relevant legislative amendments.

Risk assessment

     "As long as there is international travel, there is always risk of introduction of Zika virus to Hong Kong. As asymptomatic infection is very common and the potential vector is present locally, there is also risk of local spread in case Zika is introduced to Hong Kong," Dr Leung said.

     Locally, no human cases have been reported to the CHP to date and the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Services Branch is capable of detecting Zika virus.

     Globally, Zika Virus Infection has been emerging and outbreaks have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. Ongoing transmission of Zika has expanded rapidly in the Americas since 2015.

     Zika virus is mainly transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. Aedes aegypti, which is currently not found in Hong Kong, is considered the most important vector for transmitting Zika to humans. Other Aedes mosquito species such as Aedes albopictus widely present locally are also considered as potential vectors. Zika can also be transmitted through blood, but this is an infrequent mechanism. Sexual transmission of Zika may have occurred, and there were reports in a limited number of cases that the virus has been shown to be present in semen.

Travel advice

     Since January 18, the DH has alerted travellers to the risk of Zika and advised pregnant women and those planning pregnancy to adopt necessary anti-mosquito precautions as a precautionary measure. Pregnant women should consider deferring their trip to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission. Travellers should seek medical advice before the trip and avoid mosquito bites during the trip.

     Travellers who return from areas with ongoing Zika transmission and feel unwell should seek medical advice as soon as possible and provide travel details to their doctor.

     The Port Health Office of the DH has stepped up port health measures to reduce the risk of introduction of Zika into Hong Kong through enhanced risk communication with stakeholders and travellers. The latest health information and advice has been uploaded to the DH's Travel Health Service page ( Updated information and preventive measures for Zika will also be provided to travellers, travel agents and personnel (particularly pregnant women) through the website, Travel Health Centres and the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong.

Risk communication

     The Interdepartmental Coordinating Committee on Mosquito-borne Diseases will convene a meeting on February 5 to follow up on the risk of Zika Virus Infection and actions of effective vector control in Hong Kong.

     "We have maintained close communication with the health authorities of Guangdong and Macau on the surveillance of Zika and just convened a teleconference with both this afternoon," Dr Leung said.

     A designated page for Zika Virus Infection ( has been created in the CHP's website, providing ample health information for the public.

Health advice

     At present, there is no effective vaccine against Zika Virus Infection. Members of the public are reminded to protect themselves from mosquito bites and help prevent proliferation of mosquitoes.

1. Wear loose, light-coloured, long-sleeved tops and trousers, and use DEET-containing insect repellent on exposed parts of the body and clothing;

2. Take additional preventive measures during outdoor activities:
* Avoid using fragrant cosmetics or skin care products;
* Re-apply insect repellents according to instructions;

3. Special notes when travelling abroad:
* If going to affected areas or countries, travellers, especially people with immune disorders or severe chronic illnesses, should arrange a consultation with a doctor at least six weeks before the journey, and follow extra preventive measures to avoid mosquito bites;
* During the trip, if travelling in endemic rural areas, carry a portable bed net and apply permethrin (an insecticide) on it. Permethrin should not be applied to the skin. Seek medical attention as early as possible if feeling unwell;
* Travellers who return from affected areas should apply mosquito repellent for 14 days after arrival to Hong Kong. Those feeling unwell e.g. running a fever, should seek medical advice as soon as possible and provide travel details to doctor;

4. Special notes for pregnant women and women preparing for pregnancy:
* Pregnant women should consider deferring their trip to areas with past or current evidence of ongoing Zika virus transmission. Those who must travel to any of these areas should seek medical advice from their doctor before the trip, strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip, and consult and reveal their travel history to their doctor if symptoms develop after the trip;
* Women preparing for pregnancy should also consult their doctor before travelling to these areas, strictly follow anti-mosquito precautions during the trip, and report to their doctor if feeling unwell after the trip; and

5. Special notes for prevention of sexual transmission (see Note):
* If a female partner is at risk of getting pregnant, or is already pregnant, condom use is advised for a male traveller:
(i) for 28 days after his return from an active Zika transmission area if he had no symptoms of unexplained fever and rash; or
(ii) for six months following recovery if a clinical illness compatible with Zika Virus Infection or laboratory confirmed Zika Virus Infection was reported.

Note: This is a precaution and may be revised as more information becomes available. Individuals with further concerns regarding potential sexual transmission of Zika virus should contact their doctor for advice.

Ends/Monday, February 1, 2016
Issued at HKT 18:46


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