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13 March 2014
Three additional overseas cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome closely monitored by DH  

     The Department of Health (DH) is today (March 13) closely monitoring three additional cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (one case) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) (two cases).

     According to the WHO, the patient in the UAE is a man aged 68 with underlying illnesses from Abu Dhabi. He became ill on March 1 and was hospitalised on March 3. He is currently in stable condition. He had no travel history or contact with confirmed patients, but had contact with animals including camels in a farm which he owns and visits daily.

     The cases in the KSA comprise a man aged 51, who became ill on February 28 and was hospitalised on March 2, and a woman aged 56, who became ill on February 17, was hospitalised on February 25 and died on March 3. Both are from the KSA's capital and had underlying illnesses. The male patient reported exposure to animals.

     This brings the latest global number of confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome to 189, including 82 deaths.

     "The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the DH will seek more information on the cases from the WHO and the relevant health authorities. The CHP will stay vigilant and continue to work closely with the WHO and overseas health authorities to monitor the latest developments of this disease," a spokesman for the DH said.

     Locally, the CHP will continue its surveillance mechanism with public and private hospitals, practising doctors and the airport for any suspected case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

     "No human infection with this virus has been identified so far in Hong Kong," the spokesman remarked.

     "We would like to reassure the public that the Government will be as transparent as possible in the dissemination of information on cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Whenever there is a suspected case, particularly involving patients with travel history to the Middle East, the CHP will release information to the public as soon as possible," the spokesman stressed.

     Early identification of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus is important, but not all cases can be reliably detected in a timely manner, especially when a case is mild or atypical. Health-care workers (HCWs) and hospitals are therefore reminded to maintain vigilance against the disease and adhere to strict infection control measures consistently while handling suspected or confirmed cases in order to reduce the risk of transmission to other patients, HCWs or visitors. Regular education and training of infection prevention and control should also be provided to all HCWs.

     Recent travellers returning from the Middle East who develop severe acute respiratory infections should be tested for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. Patients' lower respiratory tract specimens should also be obtained for diagnosis when possible and repeat testing should be done when the clinical and epidemiological clues strongly suggest Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

     Travellers should avoid contact with animals, poultry or sick people during travel and seek medical consultation immediately if feeling unwell. They should also wash hands regularly before and after touching animals when visiting farms or barns.

     As a general precautionary measure, they should also adhere to food safety and environmental hygiene practices such as avoiding undercooked meats, raw fruits and vegetables, unless they have been peeled, and unsafe water. Those returning from the Middle East with respiratory symptoms are advised to wear face masks, seek medical attention and reveal their travel history to doctors.

     Relevant travel health advice can be found on the website of the DH's Travel Health Service (www.travelhealth.gov.hk/english/popup/popup.html).

     Members of the public are also reminded to take heed of personal hygiene:

* Wash hands before touching the eyes, nose and mouth;
* Wash hands before eating or handling food;
* Wash hands after using the toilet;
* Wash hands after sneezing or coughing and cleaning the nose; and
* Avoid direct contact with animals, birds or poultry.

     The public may visit the CHP's website for more information on Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/26511.html) and personal hygiene (www.chp.gov.hk/en/content/9/460/19899.html).

Ends/Thursday, March 13, 2014

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