With the news that China has now confirmed the symptomatic traveler who passed through Hong Kong on May 26th has tested positive for the MERS virus - and that Korea's cluster has increased by two since yesterday - Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection has activated the ALERT response to the MERS Virus.
The Alert Response Level under the Government's Preparedness Plan for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is activated
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), formerly known as novel coronavirus (NCoV), is a coronavirus which has not been identified in humans before and is different from any coronaviruses (including SARS-coronavirus) that have been found in humans or animals.
For details, please refer to the factsheet of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.
Last year, in Hong Kong Unveils Their MERS-CoV Preparedness Plan, we examined this emergency response plan. Alert is the lowest of three possible response levels (ALERT, SERIOUS & EMERGENCY).
Should local cases be confirmed in Hong Kong, the alert level would be raised to SERIOUS.
In the meantime we are already seeing multiple reports of locals in Hong Kong being quarantined, isolated, or tested for the virus.
Very likely, most of these will turn out to be false alarms.
But out of an abundance of caution - and after seeing the expansion of cases in Korea - the CHP is taking the threat seriously.
This from RTHK:
Three people have been quarantined at Princess Margaret Hospital after showing symptoms of the potentially deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Center of Health Protection confirmed.
They were said to have sat close to a South Korean man -- who has now been confirmed as having Mers - on a flight from Incheon to Hong Kong on Tuesday.
The 44-year-old man, who briefly stopped over in the SAR before heading to the mainland, is now quarantined in a Huizhou hospital.
Guangdong health authorities have confirmed that the man has tested positive for the deadly virus.
The Center is calling on passengers who were on the same flight or bus as the patient to come forward for tests as soon as possible. --RTHK
The good news here is that Hong Kong's CHP is one of the best equipped, and most experienced, public health agencies in the world when it comes to dealing with infectious disease outbreaks.
The agency was founded in direct response to Hong Kong's SARS experience (see SARS And Remembrance ).
This is an evolving story, and the next few days are likely to be a bit chaotic.