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Government prepared for risk of Zika Virus Infection arising from Olympics
     The Department of Health (DH), the Hospital Authority (HA) and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) today (July 31) announced the enhanced local preventive and control measures against the risk of Zika Virus Infection arising from the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games (the Games) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
     "The Government has been vigilant in guarding Hong Kong against Zika virus. In line with recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), our public health actions including vector control, enhanced disease surveillance, laboratory testing, diagnosis and clinical guidelines, travel health advice and public education, enhanced port health measures, preparedness plan and risk communication are all in place," a spokesman for the DH said.
     Three and seven clinics arranged under the HA (see attachment) will increase service capacity to provide consultation respectively for Hong Kong delegates and travellers returning from Brazil during the Games from August 8 to October 14, 2016. If compatible symptoms develop, such as rash and fever, they can make telephone enquiries and advance bookings before attending the clinics. Service capacity will be increased accordingly to ensure that normal service will not be affected.
     Meanwhile, the Food and Health Bureau is also commissioning a research to the Department of Microbiology of the University of Hong Kong to conduct tests for Zika virus among people returning from the Games without symptoms.
     "We again urge those returning from affected areas to apply insect repellent for at least 21 days upon arrival. To better prepare for the possible risk of Zika Virus Infection arising from the Games which will start this week, we have stepped up measures for the sports and tourism sectors, the press and the public before their departure. Special arrangements will also be in place when they return," the spokesman added.
     A. Sports sector
     Since February 2016, the DH, in collaboration with the Commissioner for Sports, has been working closely with the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China; the Hong Kong Paralympic Committee & Sports Association for the Physically Disabled; and the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI) in delivering the latest disease information and travel health advice to athletes and their personnel.
     The DH held two health briefings for athletes and their personnel departing for the Games respectively on July 6 and 11, 2016. Upon return of Hong Kong delegates, the DH noted that the Sports Medicine Centre of the HKSI would provide consultation for eligible athletes and personnel.
     B. Tourism sector
     Based on information provided by the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong (TIC), the DH has liaised with local travel agents which may organise tours to South America and all have been assisting in distributing travel health advice to tour guides and travellers. A briefing was conducted for travel agents on June 3, and they were further briefed in a meeting of the TIC on June 27, 2016.
     In addition, the official ticket agent in Hong Kong for the Games has assisted in the distribution of travel health advice to customers at its branches upon ticket collection.
     Separately, the Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service has screening policies in place on blood donation. Blood donors are deferred from donation for 28 days upon departure from affected areas.
     C. Press
     The DH has liaised with relevant media associations. Two health talks on relevant travel health advice for local electronic and print media personnel covering the Games were held on May 25 and July 5, 2016.
     D. Public
     Publicity and public health education have been strengthened since May 2016 through a variety of channels, including television, radio, websites, social media, healthcare facilities, schools, institutions, non-governmental organisations serving children, housing estates, government venues and boundary control points.
     E. Epidemiological situation
     According to the WHO, to date, 67 countries/areas have documented mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission since 2007 while 11 have reported evidence of person-to-person transmission probably by sexual contact. There is scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome.
     While there is no overall decline in the global situation, the outbreak in Brazil is ongoing. As of July 28, 2016, a total of 165 932 suspected and 66 180 confirmed cases of Zika Virus Infection, including four deaths (at least one from Rio de Janeiro), have been recorded since May 2015. Statistics of the Pan American Health Organization of the WHO revealed that, as of mid-June 2016, Rio de Janeiro ranked third in Brazil in the incidence rate of Zika Virus Infection.
     F. Vector surveillance and control
     Aedes aegypti (A. aegypti) is the principal vector for Zika Virus Infection and is active both indoors and outdoors.
     "A. aegypti found in Brazil feeds almost exclusively on human and can bite throughout the daytime. As its bites cause minor localised itching and irritation to the skin, one may not notice them. Travellers should hence take personal protective measures even while staying indoors to prevent mosquito bites, particularly in areas without air-conditioning. If a person infected with Zika virus during travel is bitten by a vector mosquito after returning to Hong Kong, the infected mosquito may spread the disease in Hong Kong by biting other people," a spokesman for the FEHD explained.
     The FEHD's dengue vector surveillance programme in place also monitors the vector for Zika virus.
     "As an additional measure under the programme, all local mosquito samples collected from port areas and areas with an Area Ovitrap Index reaching ten per cent or above in the community between August and October 2016 will be tested for Zika virus. In case of positive results, mosquito control measures will be strengthened in areas within a 500-metre radius of the ovitrap concerned," the spokesman said.
     The third phase of the territory-wide Anti-mosquito Campaign 2016 launched by the FEHD in collaboration with relevant Bureaux/Departments (B/Ds) would start on August 15 for ten weeks. The second round of intensive mosquito prevention and control exercise would also be carried out from August to October by relevant B/Ds and the HA to further strengthen mosquito control in venues under their purview. During the exercises, actions will be taken to kill adult mosquitoes, clear stagnant water and conduct grass cutting to eliminate potential mosquito breeding grounds, and enhance publicity and public education on mosquito control via various channels with a view to eliminating a whole generation of mosquitoes, including those which may be infected.
     The public may visit these pages for more disease information and health advice: the Zika page of the CHP and the DH's Travel Health Service, the Outbound Travel Alert page of the Security Bureau, anti-mosquito precautions for women, and the WHO Zika virus situation reports.
Ends/Sunday, July 31, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:28
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