Measles case confirmed in Hong Kong amid outbreak in Japan and Taiwan
46-year-old expat patient had travelled to Thailand from March 1 to April 8 before developing rash, muscle pain, fever and other symptoms
The spectre of a measles outbreak, already under way in Japan and Taiwan, now looms in Hong Kong after a man was confirmed to have contracted the highly communicable viral disease in a suspected imported case, prompting surveillance of 20 others.
The 46-year-old expat, who had travelled to Thailand alone from March 1 to April 8, developed a rash, red eyes, muscle pain, vomiting, fever and a cough on April 18, the Centre for Health Protection said on Thursday.
The man, who lived alone, sought medical help at a clinic from the TY Medical Practice chain on Hennessy Road in Causeway Bay on Sunday, and again on Monday. He has since been placed in isolation at Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam.
The patient’s respiratory specimens tested positive for measles, one of the most highly communicable infectious diseases. The man’s condition was stable as of Thursday.
The centre said it had been conducting contact tracing with the clinic. As of 5pm on Thursday, 20 people had been contacted. They showed no symptoms and were put under medical surveillance.
However, their last contact with the man was three to four days ago, while the incubation period for the disease could be at least seven days, the centre noted.
“The patient had been abroad for more than half of the incubation period. The centre cannot rule out that it might be an imported case,” a spokesman said.
An investigation is under way.
As of Tuesday, there had been 70 confirmed measles cases in Okinawa since the end of last month, including the first identified case – a Taiwanese traveller whose condition was confirmed on March 20.
In Nagoya, Japan, a teenage boy who had visited Okinawa was confirmed to have measles. At least six other cases involving people who had contact with the boy were subsequently reported.
In Taiwan, 23 cases had been confirmed as of Tuesday, including seven imported cases. The first patient had tested positive in Okinawa and had been to Thailand during the incubation period, according to the centre.
Paediatrician Dr Tse Hung-hing said imported cases of the infectious disease, which is rare locally, could occur at any time, but what worried him was the possibility of local outbreaks.
Adults might not be vaccinated depending on their age because measles vaccines were created some 40 years ago. Those who had received the jabs only once – the usual practice before the 1990s – might still have a chance of getting measles, Tse said.
However, the disease had a larger impact on children, he added, and children born in Hong Kong after a local outbreak in the 1990s would likely to have been given boosters in addition to their first vaccines.
“Children were more vulnerable to the disease, and the best prevention was to get vaccinated,” Tse said.