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Vigilance urged against infectious diseases during Easter and Ching Ming Festival

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) today (March 21) urged the public, particularly travellers during Easter and the Ching Ming Festival, to consider health risks before travel and adopt necessary precautions in view of the increasing activity of various infectious diseases.

     "With possibly more outdoor exposure while visiting cemeteries and columbaria, grave sweepers should wear light-coloured and long-sleeved tops and trousers and use DEET-containing insect repellent on exposed parts of the body and clothing. Remove stagnant water in incense burners and used containers and clear rubbish before leaving to prevent mosquito breeding. Anti-mosquito measures are essential in guarding against dengue fever (DF) and Zika Virus Infection during travel," a spokesman for the CHP said.

     "In addition, avoid poultry contact and do not visit poultry markets and farms to guard against avian influenza. Avoid camel contact and do not visit farms, barns or markets with camels in the Middle East to prevent Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. In Hong Kong, get vaccinated promptly and wash hands frequently in the festive season and the winter influenza season. Eat thoroughly cooked and healthy food to avoid food poisoning. Strict hand, personal, food and environmental hygiene are key precautions against infectious diseases," the spokesman said.

Avian influenza

     Since 2013 to date, 735 human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) have been reported in the Mainland. From October 2015, 78 H7N9 cases, six H5N6 cases and one H5N1 case have been reported in the Mainland. Locally, two imported human H7N9 cases and birds positive for H5N6 were also detected since late 2015.

     According to the latest risk assessment by the World Health Organization (WHO), most human cases are exposed to the virus through contact with infected poultry or contaminated environments, including live poultry markets. As the virus continues to be detected in animals and environments, further human cases can be expected. The activity of avian influenza viruses in the Mainland is expected to remain at a high level and further sporadic cases might be imported to Hong Kong. The public, especially travellers to the Mainland, should be highly alert.

Dengue fever

     Locally, as of yesterday (March 20), 20 cases of DF had been confirmed this year and all were imported.

     Dengue remains endemic in neighbouring and overseas areas. In 2016, in Asia, 11 615 DF cases have been recorded in Thailand, 5 593 in Singapore (since January 3), 370 in Taiwan and 44 in Japan. In the Americas, 224 064 cases were filed in Brazil and 14 617 in Mexico this year.

Zika Virus Infection

     Locally, no human Zika cases have been reported to the CHP to date. Separately, 13 imported cases have been notified in the Mainland.

     Globally, according to the WHO, 52 countries/areas have reported or indicated autochthonous Zika virus transmission since 2007, and three have locally acquired infections probably transmitted through sexual contact in the absence of any known mosquito vectors.

     As the causal role of Zika virus is highly likely in microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome, the public should pay special attention to the areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission (affected areas) and observe the DH's ongoing health advice and special notes during travel. Pregnant women and those planning pregnancy should consider deferring their trip to affected areas. Those returning from affected areas should apply insect repellent for 14 days after arrival in Hong Kong.

     "In Brazil, the dengue activity is high with ongoing local transmission of Zika virus and other endemic diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. Travellers to Brazil should strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites to prevent these mosquito-borne diseases," the spokesman added.

     The public may visit the DH's pages below for more disease information and health advice:

* The avian influenza page (;
* The DF page (;
* The Zika Virus Infection page (;
* The Travel Health News (; and
* Anti-mosquito precautions for women (

Ends/Monday, March 21, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:46


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