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Vigilance urged against viral hepatitis E infection

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (February 23) urged members of the public to be on the alert against viral hepatitis E infection and to strictly observe good personal, food and environmental hygiene.    The appeal was made in view of the higher incidence of viral hepatitis E infection recently.

     The number of viral hepatitis E infection recorded this month (as at February 21) was 27, exceeding the monthly number recorded in the previous five years (the monthly number of which ranged from one to 23 cases). More cases of viral hepatitis E infection were usually recorded from February to April in past years.

     As at February 21, 36 cases of viral hepatitis E infection had been reported to CHP in 2012. Among these cases, three were serious infections - a 46-year-old female patient who had a liver transplant, a 62-year-old male who became critically ill after admission to hospital and a 48-year-old male patient who died. The male patient who died also tested positive for hepatitis B infection and the cause of death is being investigated by the coroner.

     In 2010 and 2011, the number of viral hepatitis E infection cases recorded was 118 and 119 respectively.

     "Hepatitis E is usually more active during the winter and spring seasons," a CHP spokesman said.

     "Clinical features of acute hepatitis E resemble those of other types of viral hepatitis, including anorexia, malaise, fever and vomiting, followed by jaundice, passing tea-coloured urine and hepatomegaly. Most of the patients recover in three to six weeks. However, pregnant patients carry a higher risk of severe disease from the infection,"
     To prevent hepatitis E infection, the public is advised to take the following precautions:

* Most importantly, food, especially shellfish and animal offal, should be cooked thoroughly before consumption;

* Handle and store raw and cooked food separately (upper compartment of the refrigerator for cooked food and lower compartment for raw food) to avoid cross contamination; and

* Wash hands properly with soap and water before eating or handling food, and after going to the toilet.

Ends/Thursday, February 23, 2012
Issued at HKT 19:15


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