Emergencies preparedness, response

Update 17 - Travel advice - Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, and Guangdong Province, China

2 April 2003

The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) continues in the affected areas* : Canada (Toronto), China (Guangdong Province, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, Shanxi Province, Taiwan Province), Singapore (Singapore), Vietnam (Hanoi). The agent causing SARS is under intensive international study, but as of today it has not been fully characterized, and there is no vaccine or other prophylaxis available.

Since WHO issued the global alert on the 12th of March national authorities have implemented heightened surveillance for cases of SARS and where such cases have been identified their prompt isolation has prevented further spread of the disease in virtually all countries. For instance the outbreak in Hanoi has passed its peak and no new cases have been identified for the last week. Last week WHO issued recommendations aimed at further limiting the spread of SARS and protecting international air passengers. These recommendations still apply (see WHO recommends new measures to prevent travel-related spread of SARS.)

The SARS situation in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has developed features of concern: a continuing and significant increase in cases with indications that SARS has spread beyond the initial focus in hospitals. These developments have suggested environmental routes of transmission from a SARS infected person which may be related to contamination of common systems that link rooms or flats together. Despite the implementation of strict measures to control the outbreak, there have continued to be a small number of visitors to Hong Kong who have been identified as SARS cases after their return from Hong Kong. The epidemic in Guangdong Province of China, situated adjacent to Hong Kong, is the largest outbreak of SARS reported and has also shown evidence of spread in the wider community. As a measure of precaution WHO is now recommending that persons travelling to Hong Kong and Guangdong Province of China consider postponing all but essential travel. This temporary recommendation will be reassessed in the light of the evolution of the epidemic in the areas currently indicated, and other areas of the world could become subject to similar recommendations if the situation demands.

Please note that this recommendation applies only to travellers entering Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China and Guangdong Province of China, not to passengers directly transiting through international airports within those areas.

* WHO has defined affected areas as an area in which local chain(s) of transmission of SARS is/are occurring as reported by the national public health authorities. The list of areas changes over time and the latest update can be found at: Affected Areas - Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

WHO Press Release: SARS outbreak - WHO investigation team moves to Guangdong China, new travel advice announced
2 April 2003