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Travelers on alert: Hong Kong prepares for possible dengue outbreak

Travelers on alert: Hong Kong prepares for possible dengue outbreak

An outbreak of dengue fever has hit Hong Kong as health authorities confirmed another three local cases – two days after the first four local cases of the mosquito-borne infection were reported.

A noted bacteriologist called for “military-level” measures – meaning fast and comprehensive – to be conducted to prevent an extensive outbreak.

With three more patients diagnosed with dengue on Wednesday and yesterday, the SAR has a total of seven confirmed local cases this month – described as an outbreak by Wong Ka-hing, controller of the Centre for Health Protection.

He said more local cases could be confirmed in one to two weeks, adding the situation is “worrying.”

Five of the infected, including the three new patients, have visited the Lion Rock Country Park, prompting officials to believe the site to be a major source of the infection. He warned people against going there, and if they do they should adopt protective measures against mosquitoes.

A 61-year-old patient works at the park and lives in Kowloon City.

Two other patients – a 31-year-old man living in Kowloon City and a 39-year-old woman living in Mong Kok – had both gone to Lion Rock Country Park for barbecue.

Although two of the new patients had traveled to the mainland recently, Wong believed they were infected in Hong Kong.

All three patients live with their families, who have not shown any symptoms, Wong said.

Pest control officer-in-charge Lee Ming-wai said that since Tuesday, officers have been conducting fogging operations targeted at adult mosquitoes at the park.

He said officers will conduct Hong Kong-wide anti-mosquito operations, not only in places where patients live and visited, to reduce the total number of mosquitoes.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said a cross-departmental meeting, involving three bureaus and 18 departments, will be held today as the government steps up its fight against dengue fever.

She said the bureaus will coordinate on measures to prevent mosquitoes from proliferating in parks, private estates, construction sites and hillsides. However, Chan admitted that more dengue fever cases could emerge.

She said the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department will send letters to all 18 district councils to ask people to bolster preventive measures against the mosquito-borne disease.

She said that even if stronger measures are being pushed now, it does not mean the government does not appreciate anti-mosquito measures that authorities had undertaken in the past.

Under Secretary for Food and Health Chui Tak-yi and other health officials visited Kwai Shing West Estate in Kwai Chung, where a patient diagnosed with dengue fever resides. More than 10 officers in protective clothing sprayed pesticide on the bushes and ditches around the housing estate.

Ho Pak-leung, a University of Hong Kong bacteriologist, is concerned that the transmission of dengue fever has been identified from more than one source.

“In the past, it’s seldom such number of cases are confirmed within a short period of time,” he said. “It’ll be important to grasp the opportunity before the virus spreads to other parts of the city. We need to eliminate all virus-containing mosquitoes.”

Speaking in a radio interview, he said a “military-level” response is needed to eradicate all sources of dengue fever.

Source: The Standard

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