US embassy cable - 06HONGKONG1231

AI: AVIATION EXERCISE IN HONG KONG

Identifier: 06HONGKONG1231
Wikileaks: View 06HONGKONG1231 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Hong Kong
Created: 2006-03-24 00:40:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: ECON TBIO SENV EAGR AMED KFLU HK CH
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO9905
RR RUEHCN RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHPB
DE RUEHHK #1231/01 0830040
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 240040Z MAR 06
FM AMCONSUL HONG KONG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5695
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1052
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHDC
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HONG KONG 001231 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EAP/ANP AND INR/EAP 
STATE FOR EAP/EX, EAP/BCLTV, EAP/EP TWANG, EAP/CM KBENNETT, 
GWARD 
STATE FOR G VTUREKIAN 
STATE FOR M/MED AND M/MEDEX PETER WOOD 
STATE FOR OES ANTHONY ROCK, OES/STC MGOLDBERG, OES/IRA 
DSINGER AND RDALEY 
HHS FOR OGRA - STEIGER, ELVANDER, BHAT BANGKOK FOR RMO, CDC 
USDA FOR DU/US - LAMBERT 
BEIJING FOR DSELIGSOHN, CSHAPIRO 
 
E.O. 12958: NA 
TAGS: ECON, TBIO, SENV, EAGR, AMED, KFLU, HK, CH 
SUBJECT: AI: AVIATION EXERCISE IN HONG KONG 
 
1.  (U) Summary: The Hong Kong Department of Health (DOH), 
the Civil Aviation Department (CAD), and the Airport 
Authority (AA) jointly organized a Seminar on Avian 
Influenza Preparedness for the Aviation Sector on March 16, 
2006.  Topics discussed included aviation preparedness, 
health screening of travelers and the epidemiology of avian 
influenza (AI).  The following morning, an exercise named 
"Laurentian Spring" was staged at the airport to demonstrate 
the Hong Kong Airport Authority's current working plan for 
responding to a report of a passenger with AI symptoms.  End 
Summary. 
 
2.  (U) Conoffs attended a Hong Kong Government (HKG) hosted 
seminar on aviation preparedness for a possible AI outbreak. 
Presenters included Dr. Anthony D.B. Evans, Chief of the 
Aviation Medicine Section of the International Civil 
Aviation Organization (ICAO); Dr. Henry Kong, Chief Port 
Health Officer of the HKG; and Dr. Edwin Tsui, Senior 
Medical and Health Officer, Surveillance Section, Centre for 
Health Protection of the HKG's Department of Health. U.S. 
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) representatives Jim 
Hawkins, David McAdam, Ted Wentz and Center for Disease 
Control (CDC) representative Dr. Michael Doney also 
attended. 
 
Seminar Presentations 
--------------------- 
 
3.  (U) Dr. Evans briefly described the current threat posed 
by H5N1, including information on bird infections world-wide 
spread by migrating wild birds.  He reiterated that while 
human infections continue to occur, there have been no 
proven cases of efficient human-to-human transmission.  Dr. 
Evans discussed the importance of recommended precautionary 
measures such as hand washing, use of protective wear, and 
proper disposal of contaminated materials and also talked 
about the WHO phases of AI pandemic progression.  Evans then 
discussed the efficacy of screening and travel restrictions 
and ICAO actions to counter a possible AI pandemic.  ICAO 
has proposed AI pandemic guidelines on creating links and 
networks, recommendations on screening, and detailed advice 
on implementation. 
 
4.  (U) Dr. Henry Tong outlined key features of the 
International Health Regulations published in 2005, which 
required "core capacity to implement surveillance, 
notification, investigation, control and prevention at the 
community and national levels as well as points of entry." 
Underscoring Hong Kong's experience in dealing with 
communicable disease emergencies, Dr. Tong shared 
information from the 2003 SARS outbreak including duration 
characteristics, frequency of symptoms, infection linkages, 
and how cases were identified and referred for care. 
Interestingly, of the 125 patients referred for SARS-related 
hospitalization, 72 (57% of the patients) were identified 
through the health declaration forms travelers were required 
to complete upon entering Hong Kong.  The remaining 53 were 
detected through temperature screening.  According to Dr. 
Tong, the key lesson learned from the SARS outbreak was the 
need for close cooperation among government departments, the 
health care sector and the community. 
 
5.  (U) Dr. Edwin Tsui outlined the epidemiological aspects 
of H5N1 including age and sex distribution, disease 
characteristics such as incubation period, symptoms and 
survivability of the virus in the open environment.  He 
described the various surveillance mechanisms in place in 
Hong Kong as well as investigation and control measures to 
deal with reported infections.  Tsui also reviewed the world- 
wide H5N1 human infection totals and distribution and the 
current status of suspected human cases in Hong Kong, all of 
which had proven negative for H5N1. 
 
Laurentian Spring 
----------------- 
 
 
HONG KONG 00001231  002 OF 002 
 
 
6.  (U) The following morning, an exercise named "Laurentian 
Spring" was staged at the airport.  The exercise 
demonstrated the Hong Kong Airport Authority's current 
working plan for responding to a report of a passenger with 
symptoms of Avian Influenza (AI) on a Cathay Pacific flight. 
Exercise observers included representatives from the Hong 
Kong Department of Health, the Hong Kong Port Health, the 
Hong Kong Hospital Authority, Hong Kong Disneyland and 
various international airlines.  Radio Television Hong Kong 
(RTHK) filmed the entire exercise. 
 
7.  (U) In the exercise scenario, a passenger suffering 
symptoms of AI was a member of a tour group seated in 
business class.  The flight crew reported the case to Cathay 
Flight Operations, who then relayed the message to Hong Kong 
Port Health.  Hong Kong Port Health then convened the Public 
Health Emergencies Incident Group (PHIAG), comprised of Hong 
Kong Port Health, Hong Kong Police, the Hong Kong Hospital 
Authority and the Airport Authority Mobile Command Unit. 
 
8.  (U) During the exercise, Hong Kong Airport Authority and 
Cathay Pacific had a plane parked on an emergency runaway. 
Using live camera transmission, observers were able to watch 
and hear the flight crew report the case.  Hong Kong Port 
Health then sent two medics in full protection (mask, 
clothing protection, eye protection and gloves) to remove 
the symptomatic passenger from the flight and assist him in 
boarding an ambulance.  Following his removal, the flight 
crew passed out masks and health report forms to all other 
passengers on board.  After labeling the passengers based on 
their physical proximity to the case, the remaining 
passengers disembarked the plane and were filed into four 
different buses (based on their label color) to be screened 
in the terminal area.  In the screening areas, the 
passengers' temperatures were taken and their contact 
information confirmed.  At the conclusion of the exercise, 
the Hong Kong Airport Authority also simulated a press 
conference, which would occur concurrently with the 
quarantining process. 
 
9.  (U) Overall, the exercise demonstrated the Hong Kong 
Airport Authority's ability to develop a strategy for 
dealing with reports of AI on flights.  In conversations 
with observers, several key questions arose.  First, 
procedures for masking and containment seemed irregular, as 
the symptomatic passenger and flight crew were never masked 
while all others were.  Additionally, no one on board 
disinfected their hands.  CDC representative Dr. Doney said 
that the U.S. would plan to quarantine all passengers 
without any division because it is difficult to ascertain 
with whom the symptomatic passenger may have come into 
contact during or prior to the flight.  A United Airlines 
manager questioned the ability of flight crews to control 
passengers should they be kept on the plane for a lengthy 
period following landing.  A Hong Kong Port Health official 
noted that this exercise was a first, and that further 
exercises are planned. 
 
CUNNINGHAM 

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