Friday, May 29, 2015

MERS: Chinese Case Positive - WHO Statement - Korean Cluster Grows To 9














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After more than 3 years of spreading - with the exception of 4 Middle Eastern Countries (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan and Qatar) - no country in the world has seen more than 5 MERS cases.

This lack of ongoing transmission has led many health agencies to conclude that while imported cases are always possible, the risks of seeing local spread of the virus outside the Middle East are fairly low (see ECDC MERS Rapid Risk Assessment).

The events over the past 9 days in South Korea, however, may be changing that perception. 

Today the South Korean CDC announced two more positive MERS cases - while China announced the South Korean who traveled through Hong Kong to Guangdong Province has also tested positive - bringing the number of cases linked to South Korea's cluster to 10.

S. Korea traveler in China diagnosed with MERS
         2015/05/29 18:02
SEOUL, May 29 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean man who left for China after showing symptoms of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was confirmed as a new case Friday, Seoul officials said, raising the total number of MERS patients here to 10.
The 44-year-old man departed for China on Tuesday despite his doctors advising against traveling after his fever rose to over 38 degrees Celsius, one of the common symptoms of MERS.
In tests conducted by Chinese health authorities, he was found to be infected with the potentially deadly virus, the health ministry here said.
(Continue . . )

With the escalating situation in Korea and China - and concerns running high in Hong Kong, the World Health Organization today announced that they have seen no signs of any change in the behavior of the MERS virus.  This media statement was emailed to journalists this morning:

FIRST CONFIRMED MERS-CoV CASE IN CHINA

Beijing, 29 MAY 2015 – China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission has notified the World Health Organization of a laboratory-confirmed case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in China. This is the first case of MERS-CoV in China.

The confirmed case is a Republic of Korea national in his mid-40s, who travelled to Guangdong province, China via Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR)  on Tuesday May 26. The patient is a close contact of a confirmed MERS-CoV case in the Republic of Korea.

The patient is in isolation in a hospital in Huizhou, Guangdong province. We understand he is currently in a stable condition, and is being well cared for.

Chinese health authorities acted swiftly in response to the initial notification from the Republic of Korea that the close contact of a confirmed-MERS case had travelled to China earlier this week. For example:

  • local health authorities are tracing all known close contacts of the patient;
  • the Guangdong Health and Family Planning Commission dispatched an expert team to Huizhou to conduct epidemiological investigation and sampling;
  • Hong Kong SAR health authorities are tracing close contacts of the patient during his transit through Hong Kong SAR.
Based on the evidence about MERS-CoV gathered to date, the virus does not seem to pass easily from person to person unless there is close contact. There is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.

WHO is communicating closely with the Chinese health authorities to support their response to the case.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Centre For Health Protection has begun the difficult task of tracking, contacting, and when indicated - quarantining - those who may have been exposed when this Korean business man traveled through their region.


29 May 2015

A spokesman for the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) today (May 29) gave an update on the local response in view of the latest situation of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

"Our immediate follow-up investigation and ongoing contact tracing of the Korean suspected case reported yesterday (May 28) revealed that there were 158 passengers onboard Asiana Airlines flight OZ 723 on May 26 and among them 80 were in the same cabin, including 29 passengers sitting within two rows of the suspected case. Contact tracing is now in full swing with the assistance of the airline concerned and the Immigration Department," the spokesman said.

As regards the land transport from Hong Kong International Airport to Huizhou in Guangdong Province taken by the suspected case, the CHP's further investigation has revealed that contacts of the suspected case were in three vehicles operated by Eternal East Cross-Border Coach Mgt. Ltd. Details are as follows:

(1) Bus from Hong Kong International Airport to Sha Tau Kok (plate No.: PJ 2595)

Departure time: 3pm on May 26

The first coach taken by the suspected case travelled from Hong Kong International Airport to Sha Tau Kok. There were 21 passengers and one driver onboard.

(2) Bus from Sha Tau Kok to Huizhou (plate No.: HN 5211)

Departure time: 4.46pm on May 26

The suspected case transferred to another coach travelling from Sha Tau Kok to Huizhou. There were 13 passengers and one driver onboard.

(3) Seven-seater car from Sha Tau Kok to Danshui (plate No.: NF 4501)

Departure time: 4.36pm on May 26

 Three passengers, who had taken PJ 2595 (travelling from Hong Kong International Airport to Sha Tau Kok), transferred to a seven-seater car from Sha Tau Kok to Danshui. There were three passengers and one driver onboard.

The spokesman strongly appealed to passengers onboard Asiana Airlines flight OZ 723 who travelled from Korea to Hong Kong on May 26 and those onboard the three vehicles to call the CHP's hotline on 2125 1111 for further assessment or follow-up. The hotline will operate until 9pm today.

 "We have made necessary preparations in advance and are ready for other disease control measures if necessary. The CHP has issued letters to doctors and hospitals to alert them to the latest situation. Members of the public and the health-care sector should heighten vigilance and stay alert to the latest situation," the spokesman added. 

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