Measles scare prompts check on Cathay passengers

March 14, 2019 15:06
The Centre for Health Protection says it is conducting an epidemiological investigation in the wake of a new measles case. Photo: HKEJ

A measles case has prompted Hong Kong authorities to launch an effort to track down passengers on four flights operated by Cathay Pacific Airways between Feb. 28 and March 1.

Health officials are trying to contact the airline passengers who might have had contact with a measles victim mid-air, and check if they are okay.

The move came after a Hong Kong man had tested positive for measles virus earlier this month, according to the Department of Health (DH).

The department did not give details of the patient, but reports say the person was believed to be a 23-year-old male who has been working as a flight attendant with Cathay.

The incubation period for measles can be as long as 21 days, so the DH is now tracking the health conditions of the passengers on four flights the man had been onboard.

Cathay said it has sterilized its airplanes soon after being notified about the case, on which it is following up according to established procedures.

The carrier, however, declined to confirm if the patient was one of its flight attendants.

Cathay has alerted all of its aircrew that had served the fights in question while the Port Health Office is contacting passengers aboard them in accordance with procedures.

According to the DH, the patient was on CX921 flight to Cebu on Feb. 28 and returned to Hong Kong on CX922 the same day.

He was on CX 526 to Tokyo the next morning and returned on CX527 later that day.

On March 4, he had symptoms of developing measles and sought medical help from St. Paul’s Hospital in Causeway Bay.

He was hospitalized and his blood sample collected, which showed him test positive for immunoglobulin M antibodies to measles virus.

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) under the DH said it is conducting an epidemiological investigation into the patient’s case. Whether it is a local case or an imported case remains to be confirmed. Japan is combating the country’s worst measles outbreak in years.

“Measles is highly contagious and spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes,” the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

“Measles starts with fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat”, the CDC says, adding that it is then “followed by a rash that spreads over the body.”

It is estimated that nine out of 10 non-immune people exposed to an infective individual will contract the disease, according to the website of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before and after a rash appears.

In severe cases, the respiratory system, digestive tract and brain can be affected and lead to serious consequences or even death.

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