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SFH on swine flu

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Following is the transcript of remarks made by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow and the Controller of the Centre for Health Protection, Dr Thomas Tsang, at a stand-up media session at the lobby of Murray Building, Central today (April 26):

Reporter: (Travel advice and contingency plan)

Secretary for Food and Health: The Centre for Health Protection has already issued advice to the public regarding travelling to north America and also Mexico. I think our advice to people is: do not travel to Mexico unless it is absolutely necessary. If you do, you make sure you are well-prepared with all the protection that is required. Regarding the United States, that depends where you are going and what the progress of the spread that is actually in those states or countries. Our advice is unless you need to travel, better not travel to those areas that have outbreaks.

Reporter: (inaudible)

Controller, Centre for Health Protection: In response to the swine flu outbreaks overseas, we have immediately stepped up our port health protection measures, specifically, as you know, we have the temperature screening machines at all our checkpoints. If any passenger fails the temperature test, alright, have a fever, he will be interrupted and we will obtain the history whether in the past seven days, he has been to any of these places affected by swine flu. If that history is positive, we will take that patient to the hospital and let him stay there and have a test and until the test result is negative, we won't allow him to get out of the hospital. Secondly, in-bound flights to Hong Kong, especially from places affected by the swine flu outbreaks, we have increased the broadcasting of messages targetting at these passengers, making sure that they know if they have any symptoms, contact us and we need to take them to hospital and provide the test. So, we believe that these measures will enable us to reduce the chance of importation of human swine flu cases. But I hope you understand that scientifically, that can't be a volatile situation, we cannot guarantee one hundred per cent. So, we are taking a vigilant precautionary approach to reduce as much as possible the chance of human case of importation. If there is indeed a case occurring in Hong Kong, we will be taking some actions specifically. First of all, the case himself will be taken to the hospital for isolation and treatment. As you know, we still have medicine, oseltamivir and zanamirvir. These are medicine that we believe are effective. Secondly, we would trace all the contacts of this patient as it is an avian flu or SARS patient. We will know their health condition, put them on medical surveillance and quarantine as necessary. And also, we will be reviewing all our control measures regarding contact tracing, hospital infection control. We are already doing some preliminary preparatory work in anticipation of such scenarios happening in Hong Kong.

Reporter: (New York city)

Controller, Centre for Health Protection: Now, the criteria we use is if the patient is coming from the affected place by swine influenza. By affected place, I mean places that have already reported or confirmed laboratory swine flu. We are aware certainly of the report from New York concerning a couple of students who have fever and presumably influenza but they are still trying to find out whether it is related to swine flu or not.

Reporter: (People coming from New York)

Controller, Centre for Health Protection: I do expect that there will be a lot of these reports coming from different sources, whether official or unofficial. And we will certainly place special attention to these reports.

Reporter: (Travel advice)

Secretary for Food and Health: Of course, we will look at the advice to be given by the World Health Organisation regarding their analysis and also the confirmation of the behaviour of this new virus. If this virus is going to be a very effective human-to-human transmission, then of course, I am sure the WHO would issue actually more strict travelling guidelines for every country and in fact all the international community, so including Hong Kong. So, we will have to look at what is going to come out of the analysis. And I believe, at least in the short term, we will see more cases of this swine flu in other parts of north America and occasionally also in the other parts of the world. Our purpose is to ensure that if any imported case comes to Hong Kong, we can identify them early, treat them early, contain it so that it would not actually cause the spread in Hong Kong. This is the primary purpose of the policy that we have decided today.

Reporter: (Surge capacity)

Secretary for Food and Health: Most of the beds are actually not used for infectious diseases right now. I am talking about the 1,400 beds. Most of the beds being used are still in the Princess Margaret Hospital which has a designated infectious disease centre. And I think they don't need anything more than 80 to 100 every day. Actually, we have a big surge capacity in that area.

Reporter: (inaudible)

Secretary for Food and Health: We have increased the potential use of intensive care and ventilation therapy in Hong Kong after SARS. So, I think all the infectious diseases that I have mentioned that they all have potential capacity to ventilate patients. And on top of that, we can always mobilise other specialties like intensive care unit, anaesthesiology and so on. At this moment, I don't think we are worried about this surge capacity yet. But of course, we are monitoring the situation very closely. According to the reports of the CDC, United States, most of the cases that have the human swine flu this time, are relatively mild. Of course, we do not have sufficient data from Mexico regarding their serious cases and also their mortality. We will ask the WHO to provide more information in that area.

(Please also refer to the Chinese session of the transcript.)

Ends/Sunday, April 26, 2009
Issued at HKT 20:11


12 Apr 2019