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Hong Kong steps up response to mystery disease from China

The city’s health department added a thermal-imaging system at Hong Kong’s airport on Friday to check the body temperature of arriving passengers. More staff have been assigned for temperature checks at the West Kowloon high-speed rail station that connects Hong Kong to the mainland.

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City Chief Executive Carrie Lam, on a visit to the train station on Friday to review the health surveillance measures, urged any travellers who develop respiratory symptoms to wear surgical masks, seek medical attention and let doctors know where they have been.

The Wuhan health commission said 11 of the 44 people diagnosed with the pneumonia were in critical condition as of Friday. All were being treated in isolation and 121 others who had been in close contact with them were under observation.

A man looks across to illuminated buildings on the other side of the Yangtze River at night in Wuhan, Hubei, China.

A man looks across to illuminated buildings on the other side of the Yangtze River at night in Wuhan, Hubei, China.Credit:Bloomberg

Most of the cases have been traced to the South China Seafood City food market in the suburbs of sprawling Wuhan, where offerings reportedly include wild animals that can carry viruses dangerous to humans. The commission said the market has been disinfected.

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The most common symptom has been fever, with shortness of breath and lung infections in a small number of cases, the commission said. There have been no clear indications of human-to-human transmission of the disease.

The latest cases in Hong Kong are two females, aged 12 and 41, who had been to Wuhan in the past 14 days but did not appear to have visited the food market, the Hospital Authority said. They were in stable condition and being treated in isolation at Princess Margaret Hospital.

Besides SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, Hong Kong has also been hit by bird flu in 1997 and swine flu in 2009.

Meanwhile, pro-democracy protests continue in the island city with hundreds of education workers lining the streets on Friday evening, following an estimated 1 million people who returned to the streets on New Year’s Day for a rally that ended in 400 people arrested on charges including illegal assembly and weapon possession.

AP

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