Hong Kong on Friday launched new measures to check the body temperature of those arriving from Wuhan in China to prevent the possible spread of an unknown pneumonia-like disease.

From Friday, extra infra-red thermographic cameras will be used to check whether a traveler coming in on a flight or by fast train from Wuhan has a fever, the Hong Kong government said on Thursday evening.

“At the boundary checkpoints – both the airlines and the express train – there will be increased surveillance on fever using different machines,” Sophia Chan Siu-chee, the Secretary for Food and Health, said after several Hong Kong government bureaus held an inter-departmental meeting to discuss the pneumonia-like cases in Wuhan.

“If they identify any person with fever, the people will be taken aside for a questionnaire to understand more about their clinical history,” she said.

Bureaus and different departments will also step up the cleaning of their facilities, while schools and social welfare institutions will be urged to take extra environmental hygiene measures. The government will announce the number of suspected cases on a daily basis.

The government emphasized that Hong Kong had not received any Wuhan-related severe pneumonia cases. The three cases told the Hospital Authority they had not visited the Huanan Seafood Market, where 27 infections of an unknown pneumonia disease were linked to.

Yuen Kwok-yung (left), Tony Ko (center) and David Hui. Photo: hku.hk, hkacs.org.hk, cuhk.edu.hk

Tony Ko Pat-sing, chief executive of the Hospital Authority, said three people were admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital, Tuen Mun Hospital and Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital as suspected cases, but their fevers had already gone, and two were sent home. Ko said the patient in Princess Margaret Hospital was in a stable condition.

Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, said the medical samples of the patient in Tuen Mun Hospital showed negative results to tests for human and animal coronvirus, influenza and avian influenza.

The pattern that one in four patients were in serious condition in Wuhan was similar to that of the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, outbreak in 2003, David Hui Shu-cheong, Chairman, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, said in a radio program on Friday.

However, Hui said the public should stay calm as there had not been any evidence that the unknown disease could be transmitted between humans. Hui recommended the public maintain good personal hygiene habits such as washing hands and wearing masks to prevent being infected by influenza.

As of Friday noon, two more people, aged 12 and 41, were admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital as they had fever and upper respiratory tract infection after visiting Wuhan.

The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission recently launched an investigation into a number of pneumonia cases related to a local seafood market – the Huanan Seafood Market. As of 5pm on Friday, the commission has identified 44 cases and revealed that the cases were compatible with viral pneumonia. Among them, 11 cases were serious.

Although the Wuhan government has ordered all markets in the city to stop selling wild animals, mainland media said some shops that sell the meat of rabbits, pheasants and bullfrogs were still operating.

Read: HK woman isolated in hospital in pneumonia alert