Hong Kong authorities will list Zika virus as a notifiable infectious disease following a global alert from the World Health Organization on the mosquito-born threat.
Zika will be made a notifiable disease from Friday to ensure enhanced surveillance, Dr. Leung Ting-hung, controller of the health department’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP), said on Monday.
The announcement came after an interdepartmental meeting chaired by health secretary Ko Wing-man to discuss the risk assessment as well as prevention and control measures against the virus, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.
Pursuant to the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance, medical practitioners will be required to notify the Director of Health of any suspected case of Zika virus infection.
As long as there is international travel, there is always risk of introduction of Zika virus to Hong Kong, Leung said.
He added that Aedes aegypti, which is considered the most important vector for transmitting Zika to humans, might also exist in Hong Kong, leading to risk of local spread.
Since January 18, the Department of Health has alerted travelers to the risk of Zika and advised pregnant women and those planning pregnancy to adopt necessary anti-mosquito precautions.
No human cases have been reported to the CHP to date.
Pregnant women should consider deferring trips to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission. Travelers should seek medical advice before the trip and avoid mosquito bites during the trip, Apple Daily quoted Leung as saying.
The warning came as Zika continues to spread fast in Latin America and the Caribbean.
While there is no evidence that the virus can cause death, researchers have pointed to growing evidence that links Zika to microcephaly, a neurological disorder in which babies are born with smaller than normal heads and brains. There is no vaccine for Zika at the moment.
As sexual transmission of Zika is also possible, Leung called on men to use condoms during sexual activity for at least four weeks if they have returned from trips to affected areas.
Liu Shao-haei, Hospital Authority’s chief manager (infection, emergency and contingency), said travelers are banned from donating blood for 28 days after leaving Zika-infected areas.
Dr. Paul Chan, chairman of the Department of Microbiology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, urged the government to publish detailed information regarding outbreak situations of Zika virus globally so that citizens can evaluate their travel plans, according to RTHK.
10 things to know about the Zika virus (Jan. 27, 2016)
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