Govt steps up efforts to limit the Zika virus
Updated: 2016-02-02 09:21
By Timothy Chui in Hong Kong(HK Edition)
Travelers and locals urged to take extra precautions against mosquito bites
Hong Kong health authorities are stepping up surveillance as the administration seeks to limit the Zika virus' routes into Southern China.
A single carrier, if bitten by local mosquitoes, could inadvertently introduce to Hong Kong the virus which has exploded across South America, Centre for Health Protection (CHP) controller Leung Ting-hung said on Monday.
"There is a risk the disease could spread to all tropical and subtropical areas (including Hong Kong) where half of the world's population is living," Leung warned.
Leung said Hong Kong's Aedes albopictus subspecies of mosquito was a ready carrier of the virus. He added that the disease which might be linked to birth defects could also be transmitted sexually.
People coming from affected areas have been advised to use prophylactics for at least half a year if they suspect they have been infected.
The CHP will add the Zika virus to the city's list of notifiable diseases on Friday. Health officials will also hold an interdepartmental meeting at the end of the week to work out additional measures, Leung said.
Infectious disease authorities in Macao and Guangdong have been notified to enhance cross-border measures on notification, laboratory diagnosis as well as vector control, Leung said. He also urged the public to adopt stringent mosquito control measures to prevent the virus' local spread.
The public as well as travelers have a role to play in the coordinated response to a potential outbreak, Leung said. He urged precautionary measures against mosquito bites while reiterating warnings to pregnant and expecting women to avoid travel to affected areas.
He said returnees should continue to use mosquito repellant for at least two weeks to reduce the chance of introducing the virus to the local mosquito population. Leung noted that carriers could be without symptoms while the virus could lay dormant for more than a week.
The Hospital Authority will also stop accepting blood donations from people with a travel history to affected areas for a month. This is while healthcare providers explore detection methods including ultrasound for congenital defects after strong links were found between the virus and microcephaly, which results in babies with abnormally small heads.
The Zika virus makes use of similar transmission routes as dengue fever, with the administration stepping up mosquito control measures and monitoring, doubling port inspections and increasing the number of samples sites to 52.
Three anti-mosquito campaigns have been planned, which will commence following Chinese New Year.
The CHP's Leung appealed to construction site managers to step up mosquito control efforts at construction sites - known breeding clusters - which will lay idle over the holidays.
Secretary for Health Ko Wing-man on Monday met with 18 district council representatives and government department and local experts to outline the strategy to enhance control measures in the weeks to come.
(HK Edition 02/02/2016 page7)