Hong Kong reports 4 suspected cases of Mers at clinics for first time

An MTR employee stands by a restricted area next to a closed clinic at the Tsing Yi MTR station in Hong Kong on June 10, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
An MTR employee stands by a restricted area next to a closed clinic at the Tsing Yi MTR station in Hong Kong on June 10, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG - Hong Kong has found four suspected cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers)  at clinics, the first such cases picked up outside of the airport.

This marked the first time the wider community may have been exposed to the virus, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.

Previous suspected Mers cases in Hong Kong were intercepted during temperature checks at the airport, it said.

All four suspected cases fell ill after visiting South Korea, according to the report.

In the first case on Wednesday, a 22-year-old woman was rushed to Princess Margaret Hospital for testing after seeking treatment at a clinic operated by the Quality HealthCare group in Tsing Yi MTR station, according to SCMP. She visited Seoul between May 23-27 and almost two weeks after returning to Hong Kong, she showed signs of fever and a running nose.

The other three suspected cases - two young women and a middle-aged woman - were picked up on the same day at other Quality HealthCare medical centres at Prince's Building in Central, Pacific Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui and in Tung Chung, said the report. They had also visited South Korea recently.

Hong Kong issued a "red alert" advisory on Tuesday against non-essential travel to South Korea, where nine people have died from Mers and 122 cases have been confirmed.

A red alert, the second-highest outbound travel advisory on a three-point scale, is defined as a "significant threat" and means that people should "adjust travel plans" and "avoid non-essential travel", according to the Hong Kong government.

The Mers virus is considered a deadlier but less infectious cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars), which killed 299 people in Hong Kong in 2003.

There is no vaccine or cure for Mers which, according to the World Health Organisation data, has a fatality rate of around 35 per cent.