The Department of Health’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP) has launched an investigation into a case of severe enterovirus 71 (EV71) infection involving a primary school student.
At the same time, the CHP urged the public and institutions to observe strict personal and environmental hygiene following the outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) at a primary school in Tuen Mun.
The EV71 patient, an 11-year-old boy with good past health, had been having fever, coughing and runny nose since Oct. 10 before he was admitted to Tuen Mun Hospital on Nov. 3, the CHP said.
He developed convulsion and upper limbs weakness on Nov. 4 and was transferred to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit on the same day. The CHP said he remained in critical condition.
His rectal swab specimen tested positive for EV71 upon laboratory testing. The clinical diagnoses were EV71 infection and encephalomyelitis.
Initial inquiries found that the boy had no travel history during the incubation period. His father showed symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection recently, although he is now in a stable condition. The boy’s other home contacts have remained asymptomatic.
The CHP’s investigations revealed that there is an HFMD outbreak at Po Leung Kuk Fong Wong Kam Chuen Primary School in Tuen Mun, where the boy attended.
At least eight boys, aged 11 to 12, have developed HFMD symptoms since Oct. 28. They all received medical attention and needed no hospitalization. They are now in stable condition.
Upon the CHP’s recommendation, the school suspended classes for Primary 5 and 6 students from Thursday to Nov. 21, according to the school’s website.
The school has been placed under medical surveillance.
A spokesman for the CHP said EV71 is one of the causative agents for HFMD and the infection can be transmitted from person to person by direct contact with nose and throat discharges, saliva, fluid from blisters, or the stool of the infected.
There have been 48 recorded cases of EV71 infection, including three with severe complications, in Hong Kong this year, compared with 38 (two with severe complications) last year, according to official data.
The spokesman said although the usual peak season for HFMD and EV71 infection is from May to July, a smaller peak may also occur from October to December.
As young children are more susceptible, parents should be mindful of their health and physical condition, the spokesman said, adding that “institutional outbreaks may occur where HFMD can easily spread among young children with close contact”.
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