Hong Kong health care and hospitals

Battle to contain Hong Kong dengue fever outbreak intensifies, as wet weather forecast

Acting health minister pledges to spare no effort in fight against disease but wet weather forecast for next nine days could pose challenges

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 August, 2018, 11:41pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 August, 2018, 12:09am

Unsettled weather in the coming week is expected to add uncertainty to Hong Kong’s battle against a spreading dengue fever outbreak, as the acting food and health minister pledged to spare no effort after convening an interdepartmental meeting on Monday.

The Department of Health was waiting anxiously on Monday night for the result of a medical test on a person from Wong Tai Sin suspected to be infected with dengue fever, a government source said.

If that infection is confirmed, the person would be the 17th victim after the first infections were reported last Tuesday.

The Observatory is expecting showers or thunderstorms in the coming nine straight days – health authorities have warned that mosquitoes thrive in consistently wet conditions.

Residents of Cheung Chau, where two dengue fever patients lived, said the outlying island had been plagued by mosquitoes in the past week because of the rain.

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“It has been raining a lot in the past week. There are many bushes in Cheung Chau and so the mosquitoes are everywhere,” said Yung Chi-ming, chairman of the Cheung Chau Rural Committee. “Residents are still going out, but I’d suggest everyone should avoid going up the hills where there could be many more mosquitoes.”

Lam Kit-sing, chairman of the island’s Sun Hing Street Community Association, criticised the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department for not sending staff more frequently to spray vulnerable neighbourhoods.

“Government staff will spray public areas, but the problem is there are some vacant private sites in Cheung Chau that have been plagued by mosquitoes,” Lam said. “The stagnant water in those properties, especially after rain, draws mosquitoes. The officers need to spray there as well.”

He noted that tourists were still coming to Cheung Chau and freshmen from local universities had been playing treasure-hunting games on the island.

Health minister Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee has decided to cut short her holiday and return to work next Wednesday to handle the dengue fever outbreak.

Acting Secretary for Food and Health Dr Chui Tak-yi on Monday convened an interdepartmental meeting to be briefed on the latest situation report and risk assessment by the Department of Health, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and the Hospital Authority on the mosquito-control campaigns in Wong Tai Sin and Cheung Chau.

“The government will stay highly vigilant to contain the risks of the spread of dengue fever, and is very concerned about the new case. The Centre for Health Protection ... is currently conducting epidemiological investigations,” Dr Chui said.

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“In respect of Cheung Chau, despite the numerous shrubs and hence difficulties in eliminating mosquito breeding problems, the government departments will spare no effort in conducting intensive mosquito-control work on Cheung Chau.”

The latest dengue patient from Cheung Chau is a 52-year-old man living on Tsan Tuen Road. The other case on the island is an 84-year-old woman who is believed to have caught the virus there.

In the first 15 cases of infection, 13 had visited Lion Rock Park in Wong Tai Sin.

Dr Chui said staff had been dispatched to Cheung Chau on Monday to spray mosquito-killer, get rid of stagnant water and cut grass to eliminate potential breeding grounds.

Centre for Health Protection staff were seen knocking on doors around the Tsan Tuen Road area and offering blood tests.