Vigilance urged against meningococcal infection

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is investigating a confirmed case of meningococcal infection, a communicable disease transmitted by direct contact with droplets from carriers or infected persons, and has appealed to the public for vigilance.

     The case involves a 27-year-old man, with good past health, living in Wan Chai.  

     The man travelled to Hokkaido, Japan, from December 4 to 8. He complained of fever, diarrhoea, chills and rigor since December 10.

     He sought medical consultation at St Paul's Hospital on December 11. He was transferred to Ruttonjee Hospital and was admitted to the hospital's Intensive Care Unit on the same day.  

     A blood specimen taken from the patient grew Neisseria meningitidis. The man is now in serious condition.

     The CHP's investigation is continuing.

     This is the seventh confirmed case of meningococcal infection this year. Two cases each were reported in 2010 and 2009. No case was reported in 2008.

     A spokesman for the CHP said that meningococcal infection is caused by a bacterium known as meningococcus. It is transmitted by direct contact, including droplets from the nose and throat of infected people. The incubation period varies from two to 10 days, commonly three to four days.

     The clinical picture may vary. Severe illness may result when the bacterium invades the bloodstream (causing meningococcaemia) or the brain (causing meningitis).

     Meningococcaemia is characterised by the sudden onset of fever, intense headache, purpura, shock and even death in severe cases. Meningitis is characterised by the sudden onset of intense headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, photophobia and stiff neck. Early cases can be treated effectively with antibiotics.

     To prevent meningococcal infection, members of the public are advised to:

* Wash hands frequently, and observe good personal and environmental hygiene practices;
* Avoid crowded places;
* Avoid close contact with patients who have fever or severe headache; and
* Cover the nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing, and hold the spit with tissue and discard it into a bin with a lid, and wash hands immediately.

     Members of the public can visit the CHP's website,, for general information about the infection.

Ends/Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Issued at HKT 17:20