H1N1 virus arrives in Hongkong

1 May 2009

A Mexican national, who arrived yesterday, April 30, via Shanghai, has officially made the Hongkong the latest destination for the H1N1 virus, commonly called swine flu. This is Asia's first confirmed case of the infectious disease.

The 25-year-old male, who stayed in the four-star Metropark Hotel in Wanchai and complained of feeling ill after he arrived, took a taxi to the nearby Ruttonjee Hospital. He was later sent to Princess Margaret Hospital where tests proclaimed him to have the condition. His two companions and their friend, a Hongkong resident, have also been confined and isolated for observation. So far, they are not exhibiting any flu-like symptoms.

The Metropark Hotel has been shut down and the employees placed in quarantine for a week. About 200-odd guests have been included in this procedure. The Mexican visitor was not known to have left the hotel once he checked in.

Asked if Hongkong would consider banning Mexican nationals, authorities said this was not a practical measure as the stricken individual came on a China Eastern flight MU 505 from Shanghai. He was not feeling sick when he landed, they stressed. 

He was seated in 23A. Occupants of three rows in front of him and three rows behind him are being traced and investigated for any unusual symptoms. The aircraft was said to be “quite full”.

Ever since news of the outbreak was reported, the Hongkong government has swung into preparedness mode, having learned its lesson from the SARS pandemic in 2003.

Officials took the opportunity during the press conference to re-emphasise the importance of personal hygiene. They said that with correct tracing methods and pro-active measures “there was a slim chance of an outbreak (in Hongkong)”.

Large-scale activities would go on, they added, such as the traditional Bun Festival in Cheung Chau. The ferries to the outlying island would be cleaned thoroughly at regular intervals and pamphlets with precautionary measures would be handed out to the public.

Margie T Logarta

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