The Department of Health’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said it made a mistake regarding a confirmed local case of dengue fever in Cheung Chau on Sunday, saying it was not caused by a different source of infection as previously announced but shared the same source as the case confirmed earlier on the island.
According to the CHP, the two cases involved an 84-year-old woman living on Hill Side Road on the island, who was confirmed to have contracted the acute mosquito-borne disease last Tuesday, and a 52-year-old man living on Tsan Tuen Road, whose infection was confirmed on Sunday.
The center originally announced that the man’s blood sample tested positive for the dengue virus serotype 3, in contrast to serotype 1 found in the 15 other cases before him, and concluded that this indicated more than one source of infection.
However, it said in a statement on Monday night that the latest laboratory testing results revealed the genetic sequences of the viruses in the two cases were highly similar.
As a result, repeat testing was done before it showed that the male patient’s blood sample was positive for dengue virus serotype 1, and not serotype 3 as previously announced.
The CHP apologized for the confusion and inconvenience caused by the error in the laboratory test result of the second Cheung Chau case, and promised to take measure to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
While the clarification provided some relief, many Cheung Chau residents voiced concern over the outbreak.
Claiming that he has never heard of a dengue fever case on the island before, Yung Chi-ming, an District Council member for 20 years, said he was aware quite a number of them have rushed to pharmacies to buy mosquito-killing products as they are worried about the spread of the disease, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The district councilor suspected that the two local cases might affect the local tourism business, although the island continues to attract tourists this summer.
The CHP and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) sent staff to Cheung Chau on Monday to offer residents free blood tests and carry out anti-mosquito work, respectively, while New World First Ferry Services Ltd., which operates the Cheung Chau-Central route, has stepped up its anti-mosquito measures, including installing mosquito zappers at piers and aboard its vessels.
Acting Secretary for Food and Health Dr. Chui Tak-yi said after an inter-departmental meeting held on Monday that the government will stay highly vigilant to contain the outbreak.
The government’s Pest Control Steering Committee was scheduled to hold a special meeting on Tuesday, where different bureaus and departments would report on the progress of their anti-mosquito operations, and gain a better grasp of the situation.
Dr. Wong Ka-hing, the CHP controller, told a radio program on Monday that the current week will be crucial in determining if the outbreak has been contained, adding that the situation will depend on whether there are new cases in districts other than those already reported.
Wong warned that those who have been infected once have to be more careful, as a recurrence of being infected with other serotypes, regardless of having any symptom or not, would be more severe and painful.
Meanwhile, Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, who is currently on vacation, has decided to bring forward the schedule of her return to work to Aug. 29, from Sept. 5 originally.
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