Following several mysterious pneumonia cases being reported in central China’s Hubei Province on Tuesday, Hong Kong is on high alert, with the outbreak reminiscent of the deadly Sars epidemic that plagued the city in 2003.
Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan Siu-chee said they are closely monitoring the situation in Wuhan City, where the outbreak was reported, as people frequently travel, especially during the holiday season.
“Health surveillance at ports will be stepped up, public and private hospitals and medical staff are being told to be aware of any suspected cases,” Chan told reporters. “Travellers returning to Hong Kong with respiratory illnesses will have their travel history reviewed.”
Health authorities in Wuhan City confirmed that 27 cases of the pneumonia infection were reported last month, including seven who remain in serious condition.
Most of the people infected are stallholders at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which also sold other animals, and which has been shut down by authorities while the disease is investigated.
The cases have been identified as being a viral infection, but there are no signs of human-to-human transmission, and no medical staff has been infected. There is no confirmation whether it is Sars, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.
Sars emerged on the mainland in 2003, spreading to Hong Kong and worldwide. A total of 774 people died from it, including 299 in Hong Kong.
“The cases of infection in Wuhan have a close resemblance to the epidemic of bird flu virus in 1997 and SARS in 2003,” Hong Kong University microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung said. “There is a need to stay on alert.”