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SFH holds meeting on latest MERS situation (with photo)

     In view of the recent outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in Korea and other Middle East countries, the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, today (June 2) met with representatives from the Department of Health (DH) and the Hospital Authority (HA) to discuss the latest situation of MERS and review the relevant prevention and control measures.

     At the meeting, attendees agreed to further strengthen the prevention and control measures to safeguard public health.
     The Centre for Health Protection of the DH has enhanced surveillance with public and private hospitals, practising doctors and at boundary control points (BCPs).

     Inbound travellers with fever or respiratory symptoms who have recently visited any healthcare facilities (HCFs) in Seoul, will be classified as suspected MERS cases, and taken to public hospitals for isolation and management until their specimens test negative for MERS. This is in line with the current surveillance on suspected cases with travel history in the area of Middle East.

     On BCPs, while port health personnel have all along been conducting health assessment for inbound travellers with fever by completing the "Port Health Office Health Assessment Form", with immediate effect, inbound travellers with fever are required to sign and confirm that the information they provided in the health assessment forms is factually correct. Those who knowingly provide false information are liable to a maximum penalty of $5,000 and six months' imprisonment upon conviction under the Prevention and Control of Disease Regulation (Cap 599A).

     The health assessment form contains flight/vessel information, personal particulars, health conditions, travel history and exposure history, including contact with MERS patients, of the traveller.

     "We hope that through a more stringent measure, Port Health Officers would be able to promptly and easily identify suspected cases from affected areas for isolation and subsequent management," a Government spokesman said.

     On the other hand, the HA has decided to step up infection control measures in public hospitals from today. These include:
(1) Visitors to Accident and Emergency Departments of public hospitals and out-patient clinics are required to put on surgical masks;

(2) Patients who have fever or respiratory symptoms, and with history of travel to affected areas (including healthcare facilities in Seoul, Korea) in the past two to 14 days will be arranged for viral test and immediate isolation for treatment; and

(3) Patients who have fever and respiratory symptoms but without travel history are required to wear a surgical mask and stay in the "Influenza-like Illness Segregation Area" while waiting for consultation.

     "In view of the evolving MERS situation in Korea, we strongly advise the public to avoid unnecessary visit to HCFs in Seoul, including participating in medical exchange activities in HCFs," the spokesman said.

     Meanwhile, Dr Ko will convene an interdepartmental meeting tomorrow (June 3) to brief representatives of relevant bureaux and departments on the latest development of the outbreaks and prevention measures being implemented.

Ends/Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Issued at HKT 22:32


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