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CHP continues to closely monitor measles cases in Okinawa, Japan and Taiwan
     The spokesman for the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) said today (April 25) that the CHP continues to closely monitoring an increase in the number of measles cases in Okinawa, Japan and Taiwan, and appeals to travellers and members of the public for vigilance and reminds them to review their vaccination history before departing for Okinawa and other measles affected areas. The spokesman reiterates that vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the disease.
     According to the information from the Government of Okinawa Prefecture, there is an outbreak of measles involving a total of 70 confirmed cases as of April 24, including the index case who was a Taiwan traveller confirmed on March 20. The early cases of the outbreak involved people who had come in direct contact with the index patient, or appeared in the locations that the patient had visited. However, investigation showed that no epidemiological linkage could be established between the recent additional cases and other confirmed cases, and new cases were detected in different areas in Okinawa, indicating that community transmission has occurred in Okinawa.
     Moreover, the information from the Government of Nagoya City of Japan revealed that a measles case affecting a teenage boy who had visited Okinawa during the incubation period was confirmed in Nagoya, while at least six other cases, who had contact with the boy in two healthcare facilities in Nagoya where he had visited after his onset of symptoms, were subsequently reported.
     In Taiwan, a total of 23 measles cases have been confirmed as at April 24, including seven imported cases (one was the index patient who was tested positive for measles in Okinawa and had been to Thailand during the incubation period). Of the 16 local cases, a cluster of 12 was in connection with the index patient and all had known epidemiological linkage (either flight or workplace contacts). Three of the remaining four local cases were transmission in healthcare settings originated from another two imported cases. According to the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control, there is no evidence of ongoing community spread of the cases in the above clusters at the present moment.
     According to the World Health Organization (WHO), evidence shows that healthy people in general can enjoy long term, even lifelong protection after receiving measles vaccination as recommended. For those who had received two doses of measles vaccine or confirmed to have measles infection in the past are considered to be immune to measles.
     "Further to DH’s announcement on April 19, people who intend to travel to Okinawa are reminded again to review their vaccination history and past medical history. For those with incomplete vaccination, unknown vaccination history or unknown immunity against measles, they are advised to consult their doctor for advice on measles vaccination at least two weeks before departure, as it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop and provide protection against measles.

     "Pregnant women and women preparing for pregnancy who are non-immune to measles as well as children aged under one year who are not due for the first dose of Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) combined vaccine under the Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme (HKCIP), are advised not to travel to Okinawa during the outbreak period," the spokesman emphasised.
     The CHP has issued a letter to all doctors in Hong Kong to appeal for heightened vigilance against measles cases in Okinawa, Japan and in Taiwan. The CHP has also informed the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong (TIC) about the outbreak of measles in Okinawa, Japan and provided relevant health advice. The TIC has been requested to help relay the information to the industry, reminding travellers to take relevant precautionary health measures. The CHP will continue to closely liaise with the WHO and the health authorities of the two places for the latest situation as well as the prevention and control measures.
     The CHP's Port Health Office has all along conducted health surveillance measures at all boundary control points, including the Hong Kong International Airport, harbour ports and ground crossings. Thermal imaging systems are in place for body temperature checks on inbound travellers. Suspected cases will be immediately referred to healthcare facilities for follow-up.
     "Recently, the CHP also noted that many countries in the world are experiencing resurgence of measles with outbreaks reported, including countries in Europe and in South East Asia. Travellers should pay attention to the risk of measles. For outbreak news of the affected areas, please refer to the website of DH's Travel Health Service. In addition, if travellers returning from affected areas develop symptoms of measles (e.g. fever and rash), they should seek medical advice immediately and avoid contact with non-immune persons, especially pregnant women and infants. They should also report their symptoms and travel history in advance to the healthcare workers so that appropriate infection control measures can be implemented at the healthcare facilities to prevent any potential spread," the spokesman appealed.
     Measles vaccination was incorporated into the HKCIP for children in 1967, followed by the implementation of the two-dose regimen (one year old and Primary One) in 1996/97. In addition, the DH conducted the Special Measles Vaccination Campaign in 1997, with over a million children and youngsters aged 1 to 19 immunised. Measles vaccination has been in use in Hong Kong for about 50 years. The local seroprevalence rates of measles virus antibodies reflect that most of the Hong Kong people are immune to measles.
     "Maintaining the overall immunisation coverage rate at a high level helps keep the immunity of the entire community, which helps prevent the spread of diseases. The DH conducted territory-wide immunisation surveys regularly to monitor the vaccination coverage of pre-schooled children. The surveys revealed that the two-dose vaccination coverage has been consistently maintained at well above 95 per cent," the spokesman said.
     For more information on measles, the public may call the 24-hour health education hotline 2833 0111 or visit the CHP's measles page. They can also visit the Travel Health Service's website for the latest travel health advice.
Ends/Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Issued at HKT 20:41
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