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Suspected case of aconitum alkaloid poisoning under DH investigation

     The Department of Health (DH) is today (May 31) investigating a case of suspected aconitum alkaloid poisoning affecting a 79-year-old man after he consumed Chinese herbs.

     The DH received notification of the case from the Hospital Authority (HA). The patient developed generalised numbness after consuming Chinese herbal medicine, including processed Radix Aconiti Kusnezoffii and processed Radix Aconiti, for his knee pain on May 22 without consulting any Chinese medicine practitioner (CMP). He sought treatment from the Accident and Emergency Department of Tuen Mun Hospital on the same day. His symptom was diagnosed after admission to be compatible with aconitum alkaloid poisoning. He was discharged on May 23 after treatment.

     Laboratory investigation by the HA detected aconitum alkaloids in the patient's urine sample. The herbs were purchased from a local herbal shop by the patient. Preliminary investigation revealed that there was no prior decoction of the processed Radix Aconiti Kusnezoffii and processed Radix Aconiti. The DH's investigation is continuing.

     Processed Radix Aconiti Kusnezoffii and processed Radix Aconiti contain aconitum alkaloids. If consumed orally, they should first be decocted. Aconitum alkaloids can be toxic. If used improperly, they can cause discomfort like numbness of the mouth and limbs, nausea, vomiting and peripheral weakness, and can even lead to life-threatening conditions like breathing difficulties and cardiac arrhythmia.

     Members of the public are advised against self-prescription of Chinese herbs and should consult a CMP regarding consumption of Chinese herbs. In addition, they should purchase Chinese medicines from credible sources.

Ends/Friday, May 31, 2013
Issued at HKT 18:58


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