• Wed
  • Dec 24, 2014
  • Updated: 11:29pm
NewsHong Kong

High alert for Ebola needed in Hong Kong, health minister says after emergency meeting

Emergency meeting on contingency plans in case of outbreak; woman tests negative

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 July, 2014, 4:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 July, 2014, 6:18pm

Hong Kong's health authorities stepped up surveillance against the deadly Ebola virus yesterday as a Hong Kong woman who fell ill after visiting Kenya tested negative for the disease.

This came as a British man quarantined with fever after a flight from Nigeria tested negative in Birmingham, England, for the virus that is spreading through West Africa in the worst outbreak in history.

Hong Kong should remain "highly alert" for Ebola, health minister Dr Ko Wing-man said after leading an emergency meeting with experts to discuss contingency plans in the event of an outbreak.

READ MORE: Ebola epidemic unlikely outside West Africa, says scientist who helped discover deadly virus

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the outbreak in Africa posed "a very serious threat" to the United Kingdom.

Watch: What is the Ebola virus?

Since March, there have been 1,201 cases of Ebola and 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

"There are no direct flights from West Africa to Hong Kong, but infectors could still be coming to the city by plane," Ko said.

"Since Ebola is a very infectious disease, suspected cases will be put into isolation as soon as they are identified."

The chairman of the Centre for Health Protection's scientific committee on infection control, Dominic Tsang Ngai-chong, said public hospitals would begin to report and test all those who developed fever after travelling to three affected countries in Africa within 21 days.

The patients would be placed in one of 59 isolation rooms at Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung while their Ebola test results were pending.

Cathay Pacific Airways said it was monitoring the situation although it had no direct or connecting flights to West Africa. "We will continue to coordinate closely with health authorities in Hong Kong and in all the airports that we operate flights to," a spokeswoman said.

The 39-year-old Hong Kong woman who tested negative developed a fever on Tuesday, a source at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Jordan said. She was in stable condition in isolation.



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This article is now closed to comments

Ebola has been known to cause asymptomatic infections. It also has an incubation period of up to 3 weeks. The person who brought SARS to HK was quite well initially but he infected more than a dozen hotel guests most of whom he wasn't acquainted with. These other guests subsequently brought SARS to countries like Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam. Whilst I believe the risk of this woman having Ebola is small, I don't think it is zero as you said. With a virus with no effective treatment and a mortality rate of 90%, don't you think it is better to be safe than sorry?
You've never heard of something called an aeroplane? You don't realise health departments all over the world are having emergency meetings about the virus?
"There is no licensed vaccine available to treat it"
Most vaccines aren't therapeutic, most are prophylactic. Getting vaccinated is before getting sick, the goal is to immunize your body against the virus so you don't get sick at all.
I don't think there are any approved therapeutic vaccines - readers, pls correct me if otherwise.
But the above statement suggests that vaccines are generally therapeutic, which is just plain wrong.
Kenya = East Africa.
Current Ebola outbreak = West Africa
Distance between the two = several thousand miles
Ebola is so virulent, it does not simply jump a few thousand miles without leaving a trail in its path given people fall seriously ill very fast.
Chances that the tourist had Ebola are virtually non existing.
So what really happened here: typical overreaction, money wasted on an expensive test and another pointless headline created.
Next time someone sneezes in Jakarta, I hope the HA has an emergency meeting as well.
Good point, another shoddy journalist error.
There is no vaccine, there is no cure.
testing negative for a virus (even a deadly one) should not constitute headline news. Why don't you write a headline about me? I also could go and test negative for any number of shocking sounding illnesses!
No worry, Ebola doesn't kill as many as the state of Israel.
raygun is correct. It is good that the HA is taking this seriously. With an incubation period of up to 30 days, infected people could look healthy and be allowed on a plane.
However, unlike SARS, a person can only spread ebola after they become very very sick. This is why healthcare workers and those who handle the dead bodies are the most at risk. It cannot be spread by an infected person while they still appear healthy. Therefore, any outbreak here will be quickly contained through HK's excellent quarantine procedures. What would be more useful would be for newspaper to educate their readers about how hard it is for this virus to spread quickly so that there is no hysteria if ebola does make an appearance here.
@wallace.benn, The Ebola virus has not always been restricted to sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, these filoviruses were first recognized in 1967, when the inadvertent importation of infected monkeys from Uganda into Germany resulted in explosive outbreaks of severe illness among vaccine plant workers who came into contact with the animals.
It is true that most subsequent outbreaks have occurred in sub-Saharan Africa but this is NOT due to the special climatic conditions and environmental factors which allow it to flourish as you put it. A virus a is a complex of protein particles and nucleic acid and per se, it does not have an ability to replicate. In the environment, most viruses die within days. It can however replicate and survive inside a living cell and the natural host of the Ebola virus is believed to be a fruit bat in Africa which explains why most outbreaks have taken place in these regions.
Previous outbreaks have been confined to these regions because the affected population were generally poor villagers who do not travel by air but Patrick Sawyer, the first American to die in the current outbreak, who traveled from Liberia to Lagos, is a living example that the disease can potentially be spread outside Africa.
Unlike bacterial infections, there are no specific therapies for the great majority of viral infections and Ebola is no exception. The only effective treatment for any outbreak is containment. It will not just go away.
Better to err on the safe side than be sorry.



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