HK to tighten visitor health surveillance

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2012, 5:26pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2012, 6:16pm

Hong Kong will tighten surveillance of visitors’ body temperatures at border checkpoints, to guard against a deadly new virus, the health chief said on Tuesday.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said little was known about the virus, except that patients’ symptoms included fever and lung complications.

The new virus is a coronavirus related to the deadly Sars, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, that struck the mainland and Hong Kong in 2003. It has already killed a Saudi Arabian man and left a second man, from Qatar, in critical condition.

Ko said the Department of Health would step up health checks on incoming travellers and question anyone with fever-like symptoms about their recent travels. Officers will have the authority to transfer such people to Health Department clinics for treatment and isolation, he said.

Scientists are still studying how the virus develops, its incubation period and whether patients contracted it through contact with animals, Ko said.

It is difficult to assess how much risk Hong Kong is facing, but currently there is no need to raise the city’s official health alert level, he said.

Ko was speaking after returning from a World Health Organisation meeting in Vietnam.