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12 February 2014
Two patients with respiratory symptoms and travel history test negative for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus  

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) today (February 12) provided updates on two suspected cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome affecting two men aged 20 and 73 whose respiratory specimens both tested negative for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus.

     The CHP received notification from Tuen Mun Hospital (TMH) today of a suspected case involving a man aged 20 with good past health. He developed fever, cough and sore throat on February 7 in Dubai and was admitted to TMH today for management and isolation. The clinical diagnosis was upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) and he has remained stable all along.

     Initial investigations revealed that the patient had travelled with his family to Guangzhou on January 29 and Dubai on February 3 during which he had no history of contact with poultry or patients. He returned to Hong Kong on February 10. His mother and elder brother who had URTI symptoms have already recovered.

     His nasopharyngeal aspirate (NPA) tested negative for both Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus and influenza A virus upon preliminary testing by the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Services Branch (PHLSB) and TMH respectively.

     As regards the suspected case announced yesterday (February 11) involving a man aged 73 who had been isolated in Princess Margaret Hospital, his NPA also tested negative for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus upon preliminary testing by the PHLSB. He was earlier symptomatic during his travel to Iran.

     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," a spokesman for the DH 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 detected in a reliable and timely manner, especially when it 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 while handling suspected cases in order to reduce the risk of transmission to other patients, HCWs or visitors. Regular education and training on infection 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.

     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).

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