Public urged to stay vigilant against infectious diseases in Easter and rainy season

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) today (March 26) urged the public, especially those who will travel during Easter holidays, to adopt necessary precautions to guard against mosquito-borne diseases and other infectious diseases in the rainy season.
     "It is prudent to maintain strict hand, personal, food and environmental hygiene against respiratory, enteric and other infectious diseases. Remove stagnant water and clear rubbish to prevent mosquito breeding in and around your home with the approach of the rainy season," a spokesman for the CHP said.
     For those who will travel, anti-mosquito measures should be taken against dengue fever (DF), Zika Virus Infection (ZVI) and other mosquito-borne diseases when visiting affected areas. Travellers should wear light-coloured long-sleeved clothes and trousers and apply insect repellent containing DEET to clothing or uncovered parts of the body to avoid mosquito bites.
     "While it is generally recommended to avoid using DEET-containing insect repellents on infants under 6 months of age, children aged 2 months or above who are travelling to countries or areas where mosquito-borne diseases are endemic or epidemic and where exposure is likely can use DEET-containing insect repellents with a DEET concentration of up to 30 per cent for personal protection. The public may refer to the CHP's tips for using insect repellents for details," the spokesman advised.
Seasonal influenza
     "While the overall local influenza activity has been on a decreasing trend in recent consecutive weeks and is gradually approaching the baseline level, the public should continue to maintain hand, personal and environmental hygiene against seasonal influenza and various respiratory infections. People should promptly seek medical advice if influenza-like symptoms develop so that appropriate treatment can be initiated as early as possible to prevent potential complications," the spokesman said.
     Globally, influenza activity remained high but appeared to have peaked in some countries in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere. In the temperate zone of the southern hemisphere, influenza activity remained at inter-seasonal levels.
Dengue fever and Zika Virus Infection
     Locally, as of yesterday (March 25), 11 cases of DF had been confirmed this year, all of which were imported cases. The cases were imported from the Philippines (five), Cambodia (two), India (one), Indonesia (one), Singapore (one) and Thailand (one).
     DF remains endemic in some areas in Asia. The latest figures for 2018 reveal that 4 847 cases have been recorded in Thailand, 567 in Singapore (since December 31, 2017) and 20 in Japan. In the Americas, the latest figures indicated that 3 276 cases were filed in Mexico in 2018.
     For ZVI, no local cases have been recorded by the CHP to date. Due to the high volume of international travel, there is always a risk of importation of ZVI to Hong Kong. As the mosquito Aedes albopictus is commonly found locally, there is also the risk of local spread if ZVI is imported into Hong Kong.
     Travellers returning from areas affected by DF and ZVI should apply insect repellent for 14 days or at least 21 days upon arrival, respectively.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)
     According to the latest information, 2 144 cases (with at least 750 deaths) have been reported to the World Health Organization, including 1 927 in 10 Middle East countries comprising 1 769 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 86 in the United Arab Emirates, 28 in Jordan, 19 in Qatar, 11 in Oman, six in Iran, four in Kuwait, two in Lebanon, and one each in Yemen and Bahrain.
     "Travellers to the Middle East should avoid going to farms, barns or markets with camels; avoid contact with sick persons and animals, especially camels, birds or poultry; and avoid unnecessary visits to healthcare facilities. 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 known risk factors for acquiring MERS Coronavirus," the spokesman said.
Avian influenza
     The first case of human infection with avian influenza A (H7N4) in the world was reported in Mainland China last month. Meanwhile, three human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) and two human cases of avian influenza A(H5N6) have been reported in the Mainland since November 2017.
     "Travellers visiting the Mainland or other affected areas should avoid poultry contact and visiting wet markets, live poultry markets or farms. The public should stay alert to possible backyard poultry when visiting relatives and friends, avoid purchasing live or freshly slaughtered poultry, and avoid touching poultry or birds or their droppings. They should strictly observe personal and hand hygiene when visiting any place with live poultry," the spokesman advised.
     The public may also visit the CHP's pages on seasonal influenza, DFZVI, MERS and avian influenza for more information.

Ends/Monday, March 26, 2018
Issued at HKT 16:45