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Hong Kong - Health Risks

Hong Kong Hack
One of the first things you may notice upon arriving in Hong Kong, and it is very common for new arrivals to get this, is the 'Hong Kong Hack',  a cough that is deep in the chest. Due to the pollution, upper respiratory infections are difficult to clear up and so you should see a doctor when one develops. Hong Kong is an extremely difficult place for asthmatics due to the air quality. Also, due to the humidity, many molds and mildews grow abundantly.

The tap water is technically safe to drink in Hong Kong as the government treats the water. The problem will then lie with the pipes in your building. If you’re in an old building, the water may not taste very good. Many people order bottled water to drink on a regular basis. If you choose to drink tap water, please be aware that during the heavy rains or a typhoon, the water may become contaminated and should be drunk with caution. 

Swimming at  Hong Kong’s beaches  is not recommended due to the very polluted water. The locals enjoy the beach scene, but most foreigners come away with skin, ear, or eye infections, colds, and some rashes due to the pollutants.  Some ex-pats will venture a trip into the ocean if they are swimming off a boat far from the shore, but most won’t go into the water. If you choose to swim at one of the beaches, make sure to stay inside the shark nets as there have been some shark attacks in the past few years. 
Also, if you are swimming off a Junk, be on the look out for jelly fish before you jump in.

Many  amahs (helpers) buy food at the local markets. The food is fresh but should be washed thoroughly before being consumed! Some of the vegetables from China need a very strong washing and a soak in bleach (with 5% cholorine) and water (1 Tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon water) for 30 minutes and then a rinse with drinking water to ensure they are safe to eat.  Meat and fish need to be chosen with caution as well. The local fish from Hong Kong’s polluted waters may be tainted.  There is a risk of Hepatitis A from bad seafood. I buy all my meat and fish at the supermarket instead of the wet market to be on the safe side. (Author's note)

There are many street hawkers that sell food.  Some are licensed and some are not. Since it’s difficult to know which is which, and it is very easy to get sick from hawkers food, it’s best to avoid these little stalls. 

Tuberculosis is more common in Asia than other parts of the world. I would avoid going into public hospitals or TB clinics as you increase your risk of coming in contact with the disease! If you need a TB check up, go to one of the private hospitals. 

Depending on where you live, you may encounter a number of stray dogs. They tend to leave you alone if you leave them alone. My advice is to stay far away from them. Rabies does exist in Hong Kong so if you are bitten by a dog, treat the bite as if it was from a rabid dog. People tend to come across the dogs in the less populated areas, so if you’re living downtown you won’t have a problem with this at all. 

Hong Kong has a number of places to hike. Be aware that snakes do live in Hong Kong and some of them are poisonous.   It’s rare to come across snakes, but they are out there!

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