A Form One student from Pui Kiu Middle School has been in quarantine at Lady MacLehose Holiday Village in Sai Kung since Friday, along with 17 other people who were in close proximity to the South Korean who travelled through Hong Kong on his way to the mainland, where he was confirmed as the country’s first Mers patient.
The student flew back to Hong Kong on the same plane as the South Korean patient last Tuesday, and then went to school for two days.
Dr Chiu Cheung-ki, principal of the school, sent a letter to parents on Friday notifying them of the case. The school started disinfection on the same day and has now arranged infrared body temperature scanners for students.
None of the 18 people in quarantine have shown symptoms of respiratory infection, Hong Kong health minister Dr Ko Wing-man said.
Mers, Middle East respiratory syndrome, is a viral disease affecting the respiratory system. It is considered a deadlier but less infectious cousin of Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which killed 299 people in Hong Kong in 2003.
South Korea has not yet reported any tertiary infections, meaning all cases were linked to the first case – a 68-year-old man who had traveled to Bahrain in April and May, and returned to South Korea. Mers is more common in the Middle East.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus appears to hit people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and lung disease most severely.
The virus does not seem to pass easily from person to person unless there is close contact, according to the global health body.
To avoid the virus, it is advised to – refresh your Sars memory – wear a surgical mask, keep your hands clean, and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands. It is also important to keep your home clean and disinfected and to avoid visiting crowded places with poor ventilation.