Cathay Pacific Airways today initiated precautionary health measures in response to an outbreak of pneumonia thought to have affected a number of people in Hong Kong and some other cities.
Cathay Pacific Principal Medical Officer Dr John Merritt this morning issued a reminder to all Cathay Pacific port managers ordering them not to check in any passenger who shows symptoms of the illness and to refer them for medical assessment. It is company policy not to allow any passenger to board an aircraft who is known to be suffering from an actively infectious disease.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), symptoms of the so-called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are high fever (above 38 degrees Celcius), cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
After Cathay Pacific issued its directive to port managers the airline was contacted Health Canada`s Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response after a passenger was taken ill with respiratory problems on Cathay Pacific flight CX838 to Vancouver on 6 March. He originally flew to Hong Kong from Canada on 19 February then travelled to Denpasar, Bali, on 23 February, and returned to Hong Kong on 3 March.
Cathay Pacific is cooperating fully with the Canadian authorities and is also taking steps to check any staff that may have come in contact with the passenger.
Dr Merritt said: “Air filters on aircraft remove many of the droplets and particles that are responsible for spreading infection. Nonetheless, it is important for passengers who appear to be ill to be denied boarding and referred for medical assessment.”
According to a statement on the WHO Web site: “In the unlikely event of a traveller experiencing the combination of symptoms they should seek medical attention and ensure that information about their recent travel is passed on to the health care staff. Any traveller who develops these symptoms is advised not to undertake further travel until they have recovered.”
The WHO said incidents of SARS have been recorded in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.