7 January 2020
Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan (center) briefs media on Thursday on measures being undertaken in response to the outbreak of pneumonia cases in Wuhan. Photo: Sophia Chan's Facebook page
Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan (center) briefs media on Thursday on measures being undertaken in response to the outbreak of pneumonia cases in Wuhan. Photo: Sophia Chan's Facebook page

Govt on alert after outbreak of mysterious pneumonia cases

Hong Kong authorities are stepping up efforts to prevent an outbreak of mysterious pneumonia cases in central China from spreading in the city.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee presided over an inter-departmental meeting on Thursday after several clinics and hospitals in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, reported cases of pneumonia whose cause remained unknown.

Chan told media after the meeting that?although no serious pneumonia cases related to those in Wuhan have been detected in Hong Kong so far,?all relevant policy bureaus and departments have been reminded to heighten their vigilance and preparedness, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

According to mainland media, 27 people have been infected, and seven of them were seriously ill.

The situation in Wuhan has raised concerns in Hong Kong, where an?outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) killed almost 300 people in the city in 2003.

Dr. Tony Ko Pat-sing, chief executive of the Hospital Authority, told media that as of Thursday noon, it had notified the government of three cases in which it treated patients for pneumonia symptoms after they returned from Wuhan recently.

The three patients – two men and one woman – had sought medical treatment in Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung, Tuen Mun Hospital and Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital in Tai Po.

Their condition has since improved, with their fever having receded, Ko said, adding that two of the patients have been discharged while a man remained confined at?Princess Margaret Hospital as of Thursday night.

Chan told the media on Thursday night that the three cases are not linked to the mysterious Sars-like disease in Wuhan, because the patients did not visit the seafood market that is believed to have been the source of the virus, RTHK reported.

Dr. Raymond Lai wai-man, chief infection control officer at the HA, told a radio program on Friday morning that all of the three had been in stable condition with two discharged.

He also said gene sequencing is being conducted for the virus found in the Tuen Mun Hospital case.

In the interdepartmental meeting, authorities decided to launch multiple measures to prevent any similar outbreak in the city.

These measures include?closely monitoring the cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan and updating the surveillance criteria and testing strategies accordingly, as well as giving a daily update on the number of relevant cases to address public concerns and increase transparency.

Additional thermal imaging systems have been put in place at the Chek Lap Kok airport to check the body temperature of incoming travelers from Wuhan.

At all boundary control points including the West Kowloon Station of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, those with fever or?acute respiratory symptoms who had visited wet markets or seafood markets in Wuhan within 14 days prior to the onset of the illness will be immediately referred to public hospitals for isolation treatment and follow-up.

The HA? has also advised MTR Corp., the Airport Authority, and relevant airlines to enhance cleaning and disinfection measures of the incoming express trains and planes from Wuhan.

Roy Tam Hoi-pong, a member of the Tsuen Wan District Council, urged the government to order?high-speed trains bound for Hong Kong not to stop at Wuhan to prevent contagion.

He said passengers from Wuhan would be sharing the same compartments with those on the train during the?four-hour journey to Hong Kong.

MTR sought to assure passengers that it has regular communication mechanisms with relevant government departments and mainland railway units.

Any service adjustment requires cooperation from relevant departments, the MTR said, adding it would stay alert and continue to monitor the situation.

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