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Contaminated Rhizoma Ligustici likely to be responsible for a case of aconitine poisoning (with photo)

     As the Department of Health's (DH) investigation into the 36-year-old lady who had taken Chinese herbs from Hospital Authority's (HA) Yan Chai Chinese Medicine Clinic (YCCMC) for menstrual disorder and then developed aconitine poisoning continues today (May 10), analysis thus far by Government Laboratory already detected aconitine in a sample of a foreign matter contaminant found on Rhizoma Ligustici() taken from the dispensary of YCCMC.
     Aconitine, a kind of plant constituent, can be found in a number of herbs including Radix Aconiti Brachypodi or Radix Aconiti Szechenyiani, and the raw and processed forms of Radix Aconiti Coreani, Radix Aconiti, Radix Aconiti Lateralis and Radix Aconiti Kusnezoffii.

     According to HA, the incriminated batch was bought from a new wholesaler (PHķ~) this April.  Since it was supplied prepacked and then emptied into a vacant container in the dispensary, DH Chinese medicine inspectors considered that the chance of on-site contamination in YCCMC as minimal.

     Hence, the inspectors traced further up along the supply chain and discovered that the herb was actually sourced by the wholesaler from the Mainland.  As a matter of fact, the stock arrived already prepacked and was then supplied intact to the wholesaler's patrons, HA included.    

     The matter is referred immediately to the Mainland authority for continuation of investigation and management on its side.  

     Samples are being collected by DH from the other 13 Chinese medicine clinics of HA and the wholesaler for defining the scope of aconitine contamination.

     However, as a precautionary measure, DH also instituted trace forward preventive measures.  The wholesaler and HA are to inform all its patrons, patients in particular, of the possible contamination and that they must cease to use the suspicious herb immediately.  Those who have the possibly toxic herb in their possession can surrender it to DH's Chinese Medicine Division on 2/F, Public Health Laboratory Centre, 382 Nam Cheong Street, Kowloon during office hours from 2pm tomorrow (May 11) onward.  Given the toxicity of aconitine, proper handling, including attention to hand hygiene, is relevant.

     The spokesman urged members of the public who have consumed Rhizoma Ligustici() to seek advice from healthcare professionals, especially if they feel unwell.  All emergency rooms in the territory have been alerted to the finding and they have been advised to remain vigilant when coming across suspicious victims.

Ends/Monday, May 10, 2010
Issued at HKT 23:54


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