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Monday, August 22, 2016, 21:47

Hong Kong conducts tests and new study on Zika

By Sylvia Chang
Hong Kong conducts tests and new study on Zika

Jasper Chan Fuk-woo, infectious diseases expert and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, performs a lab test on Monday. (Roy Liu / China Daily)

HONG KONG - Expects say anti-mosquito measures are well in place in Hong Kong to prevent post-Olympic transmission of Zika virus, and a new study is on the way to find out the present rate of asymptomatic Zika infections.

Although no case of Zika infection has been found in Hong Kong, the city has been implementing steps to prevent the disease.

The main reason is that an influx of athletes and visitors are returning after the Rio Olympics in Brazil where Zika infections have been widespread, heightening concern that the returnees might bring back the Zika virus and cause a local outbreak.

Zika virus testing is offered free of charge to people returning from the Olympics. Jasper Chan Fuk-woo, a specialist in clinical microbiology and infection, and his team will collect blood, urine and semen samples for antibodies and viral load testing. Advice will be offered to those who have positive test results.

“The aim (of the study) is to check the presence rate of asymptomatic infection and update the anti-mosquito measures accordingly,” Chan said. He is also clinical assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong.

If the percentage of asymptomatic infections is as high as 5 percent, the government will adopt new mosquito-controlling policies and conduct more stringent measures, Chan said.

Possible measures include limiting blood donation, offering advice on measures to prevent sexual transmission of the virus and suggesting the suitable time to consider pregnancy.

If the percentage turns out to be low, only one out of tens or hundreds of thousands of people, experts will assess if it is cost effective to conduct further measures.

Chen saw the need to do the study given that nobody knows exactly how long the virus can sustain if no symptoms are found in an individual – thus only temporary measures are being put forward at present.

If the study goes well and all measures continue to be implemented, Chan said he is “cautiously optimistic” that Hong Kong will not have an outbreak of the Zika disease.

The Zika virus is not only transmitted by mosquitoes but also through human sexual activity. Pregnant women can also transmit the virus to their babies which can cause malformations in the fetus’ brain and joints. Around 80 percent of adult Zika infections have no symptoms at all.

For testing appointments, people can contact Ms Ho (telephone: 91210105; email: hkumicro@hku.hk).

sylvia@chinadailyhk.com

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