Preliminary tests on a traveller to Hong Kong who was suspected of having Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) have come out negative.

According to rail operator MTR Corporation, a “young man of foreign nationality” was found to have a fever, and suspected symptoms of MERS, when passing through immigration and was hospitalised. He had taken the high-speed rail from Guangzhou South station and arrived at the West Kowloon terminus at around Sunday 6:18 pm.

West Kowloon terminus Express Rail Link
West Kowloon terminus of the Express Rail Link. Photo: GovHK.

The Centre for Health Protection said on Monday afternoon that the man had tested negative.

The MTRC said that staff at West Kowloon station had followed established procedures and disinfected the relevant parts of the station.

The high-speed rail train that the individual had travelled on had already left Hong Kong for Shenzhen at 6:56 pm on Sunday, before the MTRC was notified of the incident.

After another trip back to Hong Kong, the train was directed to Guangzhou South station at 8:23 pm where it was taken out of passenger service.

A spokesperson for the Centre for Health Protection urged travellers to maintain vigilance, adopt appropriate health precautions and take heed of personal, food and environmental hygiene.

West Kowloon Express Rail Link Terminal
West Kowloon Express Rail Link Terminal. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“Travellers to the Middle East should avoid going to farms, barns or markets with camels; avoid contact with sick persons and animals, especially camels, birds or poultry; and avoid unnecessary visits to healthcare facilities,” the spokesperson said.

“We strongly advise travel agents organising tours to the Middle East to abstain from arranging camel rides and activities involving direct contact with camels, which are known risk factors for acquiring MERS Coronavirus.”

MERS is caused by a type of virus similar to the one that caused SARS, the severe acute respiratory syndrome, which swept through China and Hong Kong in 2002 and 2003.

Symptoms are similar to that of a common cold, including a fever, cough and breathing difficulties. No vaccine has yet been developed.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.