22 January 2019
A worker scrubs a service window in a Quality HealthCare clinic in the Tsing Yi MTR station. Photo: Internet
A worker scrubs a service window in a Quality HealthCare clinic in the Tsing Yi MTR station. Photo: Internet

Tsing Yi MERS suspect sparks panic reaction

A woman who underwent emergency MERS testing after visiting a private clinic has prompted appeals for calm from health experts.

The 22-year-old woman tested negative for the virus, according to Ming Pao Daily.

She had visited a Quality HealthCare clinic in the Tsing Yi MTR station on Wednesday after experiencing flu-like symptoms.

She was brought to Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung where she underwent testing for suspected MERS infection.

MERS is short for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, a flu-like disease first reported in 2012 and mostly linked to Saudi Arabia.

Ming Pao says the woman had been back two weeks from South Korea where a MERS outbreak has killed nine people and sickened 108.

She went to the Tsing Yi clinic after she began having fever and runny nose.

By Wednesday evening, steel barriers had been put up outside the clinic and access to another had been partially blocked.

Maritime Square, a shopping mall connected to the Tsing Yi MTR station, was deserted.

An MTR spokesman said certain areas in the station were sterilized. 

On Thursday morning, Dr. Leung Ting-hung, controller of the Center for Health Protection of the Department of Health (CHP), said the woman had tested negative for the MERS virus in preliminary tests.

Dr. Tsang Tak-yin of the Hong Kong Society for Infectious Diseases said people overreacted.

He said the barriers were not necessary and the public has nothing to worry about.

Dr. Ho Pak-leung, a microbiologist in the University of Hong Kong, called for calm and improved communication with the public.

Reports say Quality HealthCare clinics in Prince’s Building in Central, Pacific Center in Tsim Sha Tsui and in Tung Chung were also visited by suspected MERS patients on Wednesday.

They fell ill after visiting South Korea.

Meanwhile, CHP said all but two of 33 suspected cases it tested came back negative for MERS. The others are awaiting test results. 

Leung said the government will step up surveillance and suspected cases will be isolated in public hospitals.

Updates will be released to the public twice a day, he said.

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