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Government to gazette inclusion of monkeypox as statutorily notifiable infectious disease and formulate response plan
     In order to strengthen the response to monkeypox and keep hazards at bay, the Government will publish a Notice in the Gazette next week to include  monkeypox as a statutorily notifiable infectious disease, and is formulating a "Preparedness and Response Plan" for tackling monkeypox. In case monkeypox emerges or even causes an outbreak in Hong Kong, the response plan can be activated promptly. The Government and the Hospital Authority (HA) are preparing to purchase relevant vaccines and medicines, and are formulating recommendations on clinical treatment.
     A Government spokesman said today (June 1), "Hong Kong has not recorded any confirmed monkeypox human infection case so far. However, confirmed monkeypox human infection cases have been reported worldwide, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has also reminded governments around the world to be well-prepared. In order to address the potential risk posed by monkeypox to Hong Kong, the Government will include monkeypox as a statutorily notifiable infectious disease, and formulate a response plan to enhance Hong Kong's surveillance on the disease and capability to tackle it. The Government also urges the public to seek medical attention as soon as possible if they experience symptoms of monkeypox, including fever, severe headache, muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, mouth ulcers and rash."
To include monkeypox as a statutorily notifiable infectious disease
     A reporting system is an important part in the surveillance, prevention and control of infectious diseases. The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) has enhanced its surveillance work on monkeypox since May. Apart from further communication with the HA with regard to notification matters, letters were also sent to all doctors and private hospitals in Hong Kong on May 23 to request notification of suspected cases so as to facilitate the epidemiological investigations and isolation in a timely manner. The CHP also updated its website to provide information on monkeypox as well as a list of countries with confirmed cases.

     To further strengthen related work, the Government will publish a Notice in the Gazette next week to include monkeypox as a statutorily notifiable infectious disease in Schedule 1 of the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance (Cap. 599). The Notice will take effect on the same day. In accordance with the law, if a doctor has reason to suspect that there is a case of a scheduled infectious disease listed in Schedule 1 of the Ordinance, he/she must report it to the DH.
Formulation of a response plan
     Meanwhile, the Government is drawing up a response plan on monkeypox to set out its preparation and response arrangements in case of an emergence or even an outbreak of monkeypox cases in Hong Kong. The response plan adopts a three-tier response level (namely Alert, Serious and Emergency) which will be activated based on risk assessment and the disease's health impact on the community. The Government will promulgate the response plan next week.
     The WHO states that travel restrictions measures in light of monkeypox are not recommended at this stage. In fact, Hong Kong has all along been adopting very stringent quarantine measures in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. All inbound travellers are required to undergo temperature checks and perform health declarations. Febrile travellers will be compulsorily sent to public hospitals for isolation. If patients are found with monkeypox-related symptoms, medical practitioners will carry out appropriate investigations and follow up accordingly. The Government will continue to maintain close contact with the WHO and carefully monitor the monkeypox infection cases recorded overseas, as well as the latest recommendations of the WHO.
Health advice on monkeypox
     The CHP reminds members of the public that the symptoms of monkeypox are similar to those of smallpox, but in milder forms. It is generally transmitted through direct or indirect contact, but not through short-lived contact with respiratory droplets like COVID-19. Patients can usually recover on their own. Since the first human infection of monkeypox was reported in 1970, most of the outbreaks were found in Central and West Africa. Infection may occur when a person comes into contact with the infected animals and humans or contaminated material. Since May this year, confirmed and suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported in places such as Europe, America and Australia. There has been no death case so far.

     The CHP also reminds members of the public that proper personal and hand hygiene can help prevent getting infected via contact, and having received smallpox vaccination (commonly known as "cowpox") can also prevent infection of monkeypox. To reduce the risk of infection, members of the public who need to travel to places affected by monkeypox should:

(a) avoid physical contact with sick persons or animals;
(b) wear protective clothing and equipment including gloves and surgical masks when taking care of sick persons or handling animals, and wash hands after these procedures;
(c) thoroughly cook all animal products before eating; and
(d) seek medical advice promptly in case of any suspicious symptoms.
Ends/Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Issued at HKT 20:03
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