15 November 2018
A nodule in the eye (left) may be caused by a Dirofilaria worm taking up residence there. Photos: internet, Mingpao
A nodule in the eye (left) may be caused by a Dirofilaria worm taking up residence there. Photos: internet, Mingpao

3 cases reported in HK of patients with worm in eye

Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection is investigating three cases of patients with a worm in the eye, Ming Pao Daily reported Friday.

The CHP reminded the public to maintain strict hygiene in their environment and to take protective measures against mosquito bites and stray dogs.

All the three patients, now in stable condition, were found with Dirofilaria, a type of roundworm, in their eyes, which were inflamed and irritated, the CHP said.

It said it is studying whether the cases are linked.

A CHP spokesman said a disease called dirofilariasis is caused by Dirofilaria worms, which are parasites that infest various mammals.

Dogs are among the main hosts of the worms, but humans may occasionally acquire the disease from animal hosts through mosquito bites.

It may result in nodules under the skin, eyelids or in internal organs, an itchy skin rash or inflammation of the lymphatic system.

People with symptoms similar to those of the disease should consult medical professionals, the spokesman said.

Dirofilariasis is not passed from person to person.

The first patient, a woman aged 58, in good health otherwise, attended Prince of Wales Hospital on Nov. 8.

She was diagnosed with ocular dirofilariasis, and a worm was extracted from her eye. 

The second patient, a woman aged 69, went to the Hong Kong Eye Hospital on Feb. 2.

A worm was also extracted from her eye and identified as belonging to the Dirofilaria species.

The third patient, a boy aged 15, in good health otherwise, was admitted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital on March 11 after being diagnosed with suspected ocular filariasis.

The center did not say if the three patients have dogs at home.

Experts say the latent period of the disease, when there are no symptoms even though a worm is residing in the eye, can last months and even years.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department advised dog owners to take precautions, including maintaining their dogs on a lifelong program of disease prevention.

It also said owners should not abandon dogs, to avoid them becoming hosts to the worm.

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