The Department of Health (DH) today (27th) held a public health exercise codenamed "Prehnite" to test the response capability of relevant government departments in handling imported plague cases, and to strengthen the arrangement and co-ordination capabilities in response to plague cases, so as to enhance the awareness of stakeholders in handling public health emergencies. According to the department, about 70 officers from relevant government departments participated in the ground operations exercise, and 30 experts from the health authorities of the Mainland and Macao were invited to attend as observers.


The Department of Health (DH) today conducted a public health exercise codenamed Prehnite to test the resilience of the relevant government departments in handling imported plague cases. (File photo)

Tabletop and ground operational exercises simulate the investigation of plague cases

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) and a number of government departments jointly conducted a public health exercise codenamed Prehnite today to test the arrangement and co-ordination capabilities of the relevant government departments in handling imported plague cases, with a view to raising the awareness of stakeholders in handling public health emergencies.

According to the department, the exercise was divided into two parts, the first part was a tabletop exercise held on November 11, during which nine government departments and the Hospital Authority discussed and co-ordinated the contingency measures required to simulate the spread of plague in a residential building. The second part is the ground operational exercise held today. Upon notification of a plague case by the Hospital Authority, the Exercise Simulation Centre immediately commenced an epidemiological investigation.

During the exercise, preliminary investigation revealed that the patient had visited the place where the plague outbreak had occurred during the incubation period, and had lived in a residential building with his family after returning to Hong Kong, and that the patient had stayed in various places in the building and talked to neighbours on several occasions after the onset of illness. The CFS co-ordinated with relevant government departments to conduct on-site investigation, contact tracing and evacuation and quarantine operations in the building, as well as investigate the situation of rodents and fleas in the building and its vicinity, and take relevant measures to prevent and control rodents and fleas.

According to the department, about 70 officers from relevant government departments participated in the ground operations exercise, and 30 experts from the health authorities of the Mainland and Macao were invited to attend as observers.

In 1894, the plague broke out in Hong Kong, and within 36 years, there were more than <>,<> cases

The Department added that there had been an outbreak of plague in Hong Kong in May 1894, resulting in at least 5,5 cases. In the 000 years from 1894 to 1929, more than 36,1929 cases were reported in Hong Kong, with a mortality rate of about <>%. There has been no plague in Hong Kong since the last two cases of plague were recorded in <>. However, the DH pointed out that given the presence of rats (and rat fleas) in Hong Kong, the high flow of people and goods from all over the world, and the occurrence of such cases outside Hong Kong from time to time, the public should remain vigilant and prepared.

Since the 90s, most human infections have occurred in Africa

The Department explained that plague is an infectious disease that can infect animals and humans, and is caused by Yersinia pestis, which is mainly divided into bubonic plague, pneumonic plague and septicaemic plague. Since the 90s, most cases of human infection have occurred in Africa. Plague is transmitted by biting humans by infected animals, mainly rodents, with fleas. Human skin can also be infected if it has wounds and comes into contact with body fluids or tissues of infected animals. Ingestion of infected animal tissues and inhalation of infected respiratory droplets are also possible routes of transmission.

The Department added that human infection with plague is a serious disease, with a case fatality rate of 30% to 60%, and pneumonic plague and septicaemic plague are generally fatal if left untreated. According to the World Health Organization, a total of 11,2013 cases of plague, including 2018 deaths, were reported in 2 countries around the world between 886 and 504. More than 90% of these cases are from sub-Saharan Africa.

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