Fatal case of invasive pneumococcal infection under CHP investigation

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is today (July 11) investigating a fatal case of invasive pneumococcal infection, caused by a type of bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) affecting a girl aged 4.

     The patient, with good past health, had presented with fever, cough, runny nose and shortness of breath since July 1 and consulted two private doctors on July 2 and July 4. She attended an out-patient department at a private hospital in the early morning on July 8. She was subsequently referred to the Accident and Emergency Department at Ruttonjee Hospital and then sent to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital (PYNEH). She was transferred to a Paediatric Intensive Care Unit shortly after admission for further management but died on July 9.

     Her pleural fluid specimen tested positive for pneumococcus upon laboratory testing by PYNEH.

     Preliminary investigations revealed that the girl had no recent travel history and her home contacts remained asymptomatic. No other similar case or outbreak has been reported so far at the kindergarten she attended. Advice on prevention of respiratory infectious diseases has been delivered to the management of the kindergarten.

     Investigations by the CHP are ongoing.

     "Invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) has been included as one of the statutorily notifiable infectious diseases since January 9, 2015. Parents should seek medical consultation immediately if their children develop symptoms of respiratory tract infection, such as fever and cough, even if their children have been immunised with the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine," a spokesman for the CHP remarked.

     "Pneumococci are commonly found in the nose and throat of healthy people, particularly in children. They mainly spread from one person to another through coughing, sneezing or direct close contact. They can also spread via contact with materials soiled with sputum or nasal discharges of the infected," the spokesman explained.

     To prevent IPD, pneumococcal vaccination has been incorporated into the Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme under the DH's Maternal and Child Health Centres for young children at 2, 4, 6 and 12 months of age. Moreover, pneumococcal vaccination was introduced into the Government Vaccination Programme and the Elderly Vaccination Subsidy Scheme for elders aged 65 or above.

     However, the spokesman added, "As no existing vaccine can confer full protection and IPD can occur even in vaccinated individuals, members of the public, regardless of vaccination history, should observe strict personal and environmental hygiene against infection."

     To prevent pneumococcal infection, the CHP appealed to members of the public to take heed of the following advice:

* Keep hands clean and wash them properly; alcohol-based handrub is also effective when hands are not visibly soiled;
* Wash hands with liquid soap promptly when they are soiled by nasal discharges or sputum, for example, after sneezing or coughing;
* Cover the nose and mouth with tissue paper while sneezing or coughing;
* Always wrap nasal and mouth discharges with tissue paper. Dispose of soiled tissue paper properly in a lidded rubbish bin;
* Wear a mask when symptoms of respiratory tract infection develop;
* Do not share utensils and wash them thoroughly after use;
* Maintain good ventilation in indoor areas; and
* Avoid attending crowded and poorly ventilated public places if feeling unwell.

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

Ends/Monday, July 11, 2016
Issued at HKT 19:16