New health alert for travel to Philippines

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 January, 2005, 12:00am

Hong Kong health authorities yesterday issued a second travel alert in as many months warning Philippine-bound travellers against a bacterial infection.

The warning, against meningococcemia, a form of meningitis, followed Manila's declaration of the popular northern resort city of Baguio as a calamity zone amid an ongoing outbreak.

The Centre for Health Protection said it was monitoring the situation closely.

'We acknowledged that the public is concerned about the cases in Baguio and that many Filipinos return to Hong Kong from their country daily,' a spokesman for the centre said last night.

Many of the 120,000 Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong take their leave over the Christmas holidays.

The Centre for Health Protection will send letters to Filipino organisations in Hong Kong to alert them of the situation and give them advice on preventive measures. Health advice in Tagalog will also be broadcast on radio.

The centre was keeping in touch with the World Health Organisation and the Philippine Department of Health regarding the situation, the spokesman said.

Meningococcemia is a notifiable disease in Hong Kong. 'Even though Hong Kong recorded only four sporadic cases of meningococcal infection in 2004, we should be vigilant and take appropriate measures to prevent infection,' the spokesman said.

Travellers were told to avoid close contact with people who have fevers or severe headaches.

Returning travellers should seek medical advice if they fell ill after their trips and discuss their travel history with their doctors.

Baguio officials said declaring the city a calamity zone would allow them to use 12 million pesos ($860,000) in calamity funds to combat the disease.

The Philippine Department of Health will set up a command post in Baguio to step up efforts to prevent the spread of the disease.