A hospital worker has become the latest person to be infected with measles, bringing the total number of cases to 40 this year – a figure higher than in previous years.

The 23-year-old male radiographer at Princess Margaret Hospital developed a rash and fever on Monday. The staff member, who tested positive for measles at the hospital, is currently in a stable condition. The Hospital Authority said it was notified of the positive test on Tuesday evening, adding that the man had not worked in any high-risk wards during his communicable period and he had not travelled to Hong Kong International Airport recently.

Princess Margaret Hospital. Photo: Wikipedia.

An additional three airport workers – two 23-year-old men and one 29-year-old man – were also found to be infected with measles on Tuesday evening. All are in a stable condition and, according to the patients, none had contact with measles patients during the incubation period.

Last week, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said it would provide 1,300 daily vaccinations for people working at the airport who were not yet immune to the disease. CHP said 124 people in total had received vaccinations at the airport location on Tuesday, bringing the cumulative number of vaccinations given to 7,645. The measles vaccination quota at the airport was set to 500 doses daily from Tuesday to Wednesday.

“In view of the tight supply of measles vaccines around the globe currently, the Department of Health has to reserve vaccines for people who are most in need and arrange vaccination for those who do not have sufficient immunity against measles in a more effective and timely manner,” a spokesman said.

Priority vaccinations will be given to those born in or after 1967, who have not received two doses of measles vaccination or been infected before, and who live with infants under one year old or pregnant women.

Measles rash. Photo: Wikicommons.

A highly contagious disease, measles can be transmitted via the air or direct contact – its symptoms include a rash, fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, which can last between four days and several weeks. Some severe cases may result in organ damage or death, according to the CHP.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Wednesday that the government has been on high alert and is adjusting their response according to the number of measles cases: “It seems to me that we’re currently able to control the situation. In Hong Kong, we’re a transportation hub. We’ve got many people travelling in and out, and we’ve got over 74 million people going through the airport [per year], it is not an easy matter,” she told lawmakers at the legislature.

A hotline has been set up for public enquiries and operates from 9am to 5.45pm. As of Tuesday afternoon, the hotline had received a total of 2,623 enquiries.

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Jennifer Creery

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.