Hong Kong reports 20th measles case as airport workers rush for vaccine

A measles vaccination station was set up at Hong Kong International Airport by the Centre for Health Protection on Saturday.
PHOTO: Handout

Hong Kong recorded another measles infection on Sunday, as hundreds of airport workers rushed to take the vaccine over the weekend after at least five infections were linked to the facility.

The latest incident, involving a 27-year-old Hong Kong man, brought the number of measles cases reported in the city to 20 this year.

The Centre for Health Protection set up a vaccination station at Hong Kong International Airport on Saturday after it emerged that at least five of the highly contagious cases were related to the airport. Those infected included two Cathay Pacific Airways staff members, two baggage handlers and a security guard.

The centre said the latest victim had flown to Fukuoka, Japan, during his incubation period. The man, who was reported to have been vaccinated, was not a member of airport staff. More information was also given on the case of a 41-year-old Cathay Pacific pilot. During the period when he could infect others, he had been on flights between Hong Kong, Manila, Singapore and Bangkok.

A photograph taken on Sunday by the Staffs and Workers Union of Hong Kong Civil Airlines showed a long queue at the vaccination station located in a restricted area of the airport.

"Many of us were a bit worried because [measles] is contagious and could affect our families," said Li Wing-foo, the union's vice-chairman.

Li estimated that there were around 130 people in the line when he took the picture. He said those waiting included aircraft maintenance workers, ground staff and security guards.

Li said he was told by a staff member that the whole vaccination process, including the waiting time, took about three hours.

The centre said 163 airport staff received vaccinations arranged by authorities on Friday and Saturday, and about 200 people had attended a health talk.

People infected with measles show symptoms such as fever, cough, red eyes and a red blotchy skin rash. The disease can be transmitted through coughing and sneezing.

The centre said from Monday to Friday airport staff could receive vaccination services from 10am to 1pm and from 2pm to 5pm. Another vaccination station would also be set up in the HKIA Tower of the airport.

Ho Ping-lam, a baggage trolley attendant at the airport, said he was not worried about getting infected.

"I always wash my hands," Ho said. "I usually wash my hands right after work."

Chan Kwok-hung, a cleaner at the airport, said he was not worried because he had been vaccinated.

He said the airport's cleaning staff had been told by the management to clean public areas more frequently, from four to five times a day to once every hour.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post