Inter-departmental meeting to follow up on anti-mosquito work (with photo)

     With the spring season setting in and more precipitation, mosquitoes breed and reproduce more easily. The threats posed to public health by mosquito-borne diseases should not be underestimated. The Anti-Mosquito Steering Committee (AMSC) was held today (April 11) to review the effectiveness of various mosquito control measures, and discuss how to enhance co-operation among relevant departments on tackling mosquito breeding problems.

     The Permanent Secretary for Food and Health (Food), Mrs Cherry Tse, chaired the meeting today and said, "In the past year, 124 cases of dengue fever were recorded, including four local cases. There were also two cases of imported Zika virus infection and two cases of Japanese encephalitis. These diseases are all mosquito-borne, hence the Government and members of the public must make concerted effort in eliminating mosquito breeding, in order to protect public health.

     "In fact, mosquito prevention and control measures have been stepped up in the 18 districts continuously in the past three years. Nonetheless, all relevant departments should stay vigilant and further consider how mosquito control work can be more targeted and carried out more effectively."

     In monitoring the dengue vector, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) will further enhance the dengue vector surveillance programme that has currently covered 52 locations. In response to the four local dengue fever cases reported in 2016, the number of ovitraps has been increased accordingly. Besides, the frequency of survey will also be increased from one week per month to two weeks per month for two consecutive months in survey areas that involve in local dengue fever or Zika virus infection cases as well as those areas with Area Ovitrap Index (AOI) reaching or exceeding 20 per cent for two consecutive months. Furthermore, mosquito samples collected from the dengue vector surveillance programme will be tested for the presence of Zika virus to minimise the risk of local Zika virus infection transmission.

     Other departments have continued to intensify their anti-mosquito work in their premises. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) will pay attention to any potential mosquito breeding sites during the routine inspection of livestock farms and will issue advisory letters and publicity leaflets to livestock farmers and livestock associations to raise their awareness of anti-mosquito measures. The AFCD has also stepped up inspection and mosquito prevention work in wholesale food markets under the Government, the Vegetable Marketing Organization and the Fish Marketing Organization, and will issue notices to the traders to remind them the importance of maintaining the cleanliness of the markets and removing stagnant water. Furthermore, the AFCD will continue to regularly inspect and cleanse recreation sites and hiking trails inside country parks, the Mai Po Nature Reserve and the Hong Kong Wetland Park and remove stagnant water and potential mosquito breeding sites there. Posters are also displayed at these places to remind visitors to take protective measures to avoid mosquito bites.

     Having regard to mosquito breeding in construction sites, the Development Bureau (DEVB) has been reminding contractors of public works sites to carry out mosquito control measures in construction sites. Works departments and contractors will jointly step up anti-mosquito measures taking into account of AOI of the areas where construction sites are located. In addition, the DEVB, through the contractors' association, has appealed to contractors of private projects for proactively participating in anti-mosquito work. In 2016, the FEHD instigated 45 prosecutions against mosquito breeding in premises according to the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132), among which 31 involved construction sites. The FEHD is planning to set up dedicated teams in mid 2017 to enhance inspection of construction sites and enforcement against mosquito breeding.

     The Lands Department (LandsD) will step up the inspection of government land under its control, and conduct cleansing and grass cutting work when necessary. LandsD will also clear identified hillside illegal cultivation black spots to eliminate potential mosquito breeding grounds, and send letters to request short term tenants to prevent and control mosquito breeding. Moreover, LandsD will assist in the publicity for mosquito prevention and control, including distributing anti-mosquito promotional leaflets and disseminating the messages of mosquito prevention and control.

     The Education Bureau and the FEHD will jointly organise a seminar on May 23 to enhance schools' awareness on the prevention of mosquito and biting midges.

     The Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) will continue to actively conduct mosquito control operation in its venues, including clearance of stagnant water, removal of fallen leaves on flower beds and maintaining drainage channels free from choking matters. The LCSD will also install insect-trapping device and apply insecticide in individual venue according to its need. It will also enhance the control of biting midges in its premises.

     The Housing Department will continue promoting anti-mosquito message amongst residents and carrying out mosquito preventive measures at public housing estates and construction sites.

     The Government Property Agency has tasked its property management agents to continue to implement appropriate anti-mosquito measures, and strengthen the relevant work, including patrolling properties, preventing accumulation of and removing stagnant water, regularly cutting grass, applying larvicidal oil and promoting anti-mosquito messages.

     The District Offices will continue to assist with the publicity for mosquito prevention and control, such as distributing the relevant promotional leaflets and items, as well as facilitating health talks.

     In the light of the Zika virus infection cases reported around the world, the Department of Health (DH) will continue enhancing measures including on disease surveillance, health advice, public education and risk communication. The DH will maintain close liaison with the World Health Organization as well as overseas, neighbouring regions and Mainland health authorities to closely monitor the latest developments of Zika virus infection. Moreover, the DH will continue to furnish the public with advice on infection prevention, in the light of the latest prevailing circumstances. To minimise the risks of importation of infected mosquitoes by aircrafts and infections on flights, the DH will launch a new scheme requiring the carrying out of aircraft disinsection on all incoming flights originating from Zika-affected areas before landing in Hong Kong.

     With respect to the environmental hygiene problems, including mosquito breeding problems, which arise in areas conglomerated by street sleepers, the FEHD will participate inter-departmental joint operations, so as to solve the problems of long-term occupation of public places, obstruction, environmental hygiene, mosquito breeding as well as law and order at sites where street sleepers gather. The FEHD is mainly responsible for clearing the refuse and waste voluntarily discarded by street sleepers, providing street sweeping or washing services and anti-mosquito work thereto to improve the environmental hygiene condition.

     As for the environmental hygiene problems, including mosquito breeding problems, in landscapes at both side of the roads and central dividers, the FEHD and the Highways Department (HyD) has identified all central dividers and adjusted the cleansing frequency to step up the cleansing work. The FEHD has also arranged regular inspections to monitor the cleanliness of central dividers. It will include additional service requirements for provision of dedicated teams with vehicles upon next renewal of the street cleansing contracts so as to enhance the cleansing services for central dividers and roadside landscape. Moreover, HyD will also continue to maintain the cleanliness of road side and central divider areas in expressways.

     Mrs Tse said environmental hygiene should start from home and neighbourhood. Apart from anti-mosquito measures adopted by various departments, the concerted effort of the community is also important to the successful implementation of mosquito prevention and control work. She appealed to the public and estate management bodies to keep drains free of blockage and fill up all depressions to prevent puddles from forming. Members of the public are reminded to make reports to the government departments via 1823 if mosquito problems are detected.

     People in Hong Kong and travelling outside Hong Kong should take precautionary measures to prevent from vectors and vector-borne diseases, as well as vector proliferation. They are advised to wear light-coloured, long-sleeved clothes and trousers, use insect repellents over exposed parts of the body when staying outdoors, and use mosquito screens or nets. Travellers returning to Hong Kong should seek medical advice if they have symptoms such as fever, severe headache or muscle and joint pain. They should also inform their doctor of their travel history.

Ends/Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Issued at HKT 21:56