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Hong Kong - Health Risks, Inoculations, Vaccinations and Health Certificates

Air pollution is the most significant health concern in Hong Kong. Not only did Hong Kong’s own pollution levels reach record heights in 2010, emissions from Mainland China also manage to have an effect on the area, too.

An expat who has chronic respiratory diseases and problems with asthma might notice an increase in symptoms due to the high levels of air pollution. Even those expats who do not normally suffer from such things might notice an increase in throat, chest, and nose irritations and infections. Those who are most likely to be affected are children, the elderly, and those who have compromised immune systems.

One of the first things that many visitors notice when they arrive in Hong Kong is that a large number of people wear face masks. There are a few reasons why the masks are so popular. To begin with, Hong Kong has seen a number of rapidly spreading diseases in the past, including SARS, Swine Flu, and Avian Flu. When a city is as densely populated as Hong Kong is, infectious diseases spread quickly. As a result, some people wear the face masks for added protection while others wear the masks when they are ill so that they are less likely to transmit their illnesses to others. You might also notice that there are hand sanitizing dispensers in many buildings and that escalator, stairways, and elevators are disinfected regularly.

The water in Hong Kong is considered safe to drink and adheres to the World Health Organization’s standards of drinking water. Most people do boil their tap water first, however, since the pipes that it is filtered through can be old. Although this is not necessarily dangerous, it can give the water a taste that is unpleasant to some people. Many people in Hong Kong stick to bottled water and do not use ice cubes so that water has not been boiled.

The Center of Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following vaccinations for those traveling to Hong Kong: Hepatitis B, Typhoid, and Hepatitis A. You should also be up-to-date on your tetanus shots and all of your routine immunizations. Routine immunizations for Americans include: measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine, poliovirus vaccine, etc. If you are planning on spending any time in rural areas in Asia then a vaccination for Japanese Encephalitis might be considered as well.

There are some problems that arise in and around Hong Kong from time to time. Avian Flu, or Bird Flu, has seen outbreaks in the past. Avian Flu can impact the bird population and occasionally affects humans. As a result, the CDC advises against direct contact with birds, including ducks and chickens. It is also suggested that visitors not visit any places where birds are kept or raised.

Insect bites can be responsible for some diseases in Asia, like dengue. It is recommended to prevent against insect bites by using an insect repellent that contains 30-50% DEET. When outdoors, wearing long-sleeved shirts, hats, and long pants can also help protect against insect bites.

For more information regarding the CDC’s recommendations for safe travels in Hong Kong, visit:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Another health concern that can face those who are not used to sub-tropical climates concerns the heat and humidity in Hong Kong. During the summer months, the heat index can get very high with 100% humidity. It is advised that those who are not used to such extreme temperatures to remember to drink plenty of fluids and not over-exert themselves.

For more information on health concerns, including statistics, visit:

Healthy Hong Kong
Surveillance and Epidemiology Branch,
Centre for Health Protection, Department of Health,
18/F, Wu Chung House, 213 Queen's Road East,
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

For general information, visit:
Department of Health
21/F, Wu Chung House
213 Queen's Road East
Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2961 8989

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