SARS case puts battle-ready HK in state of alert
( 2003-09-10 11:24) (China Daily)
News that a Singapore patient had been confirmed Tuesday to have contracted severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) put Hong Kong on high alert.
Yet the city is well prepared should the deadly disease, which had disappeared during the summer, return to the territory, health officials reassured the public Tuesday.
Hong Kong's Acting Director of Health Leung Pak-yin said in a press conference yesterday that the Department of Health (DH) had contacted the health authority in Singapore for more information on the case.
He stressed that his department will monitor the situation closely and remain on high alert.
The victim, a 27-year-old ethnic Chinese laboratory technician at the National University of Singapore, has been tested positive twice for the coronary virus. Yet he did not show the usual symptoms of the SARS disease - his fever subsided and there was no lung inflammation.
A spokesman of Singapore's Ministry of Health said yesterday that the patient was being isolated in the Communicable Disease Centre. He stressed that the infection was a single and isolated case and should not constitute a serious threat to public health.
All the 25 persons the patient has come into contact with after he started to develop a fever on August 26 have been tracked down and isolated. They have been given a clean bill of health after check-ups, the spokesman said.
The source of infection, however, is still unknown. The World Health Organization has so far not listed this case as a SARS infection.
The Department of Health has alerted the laboratories of the Hospital Authority and of the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Leung said. Both universities have a medical school.
The department has stepped up preventive measures in the wake of the confirmation of the SARS infection. It is distributing health alert cards to airline passengers arriving from and leaving for Singapore. It has also deployed health-care staff at the airport to watch out for sick persons among passengers, Leung said.
These measures will be carried out in addition to the on-going health screening measures at the airport, including temperature screening and health declarations, he added.
"Information sheets about the situation in Singapore and health advice will be distributed to passengers coming from and leaving for Singapore," he said.
The Hospital Authority, private hospitals, medical doctors, Chinese medicine practitioners and medical laboratory personnel in Hong Kong have all been alerted to the new SARS infection in Singapore, he said.
Yeoh Eng-kiong, Hong Kong's secretary for health, welfare and food, said that the Hong Kong government has done all it can to better prepare it for the re-emergence of SARS.
He pointed out that the government has allocated more than HK$400 million (US$51.3 million) to provide 1,290 isolation beds for SARS patients in nine hospitals.
The first batch of facilities would be ready by the end of this month, and 70 per cent would be ready by the end of next month.
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