Rugby boys hit by eye infection

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 May, 2012, 12:00am


A city rugby boss is 'very disappointed' his team was not warned of a health risk in Singapore after 40 out of 60 boys aged nine to 16 returned from a rugby tournament with an eye condition rarely seen in Hong Kong.

Phillip Baldwin, chairman of the DB Pirates, said the Singaporean organisers knew about the outbreak in their city before last month's tournament but failed to warn the visitors. 'I am very disappointed that we did not receive a warning of any kind [from the organisers], not even in a very casual way,' Baldwin said.

'If we had known about the outbreak we would have been a lot more prepared and maybe not have suffered so badly. Some parents may even have decided not to let their children go there.'

Hong Kong doctors had had trouble treating the infection and had to order medicine from overseas to treat it because there was none available in the city, Baldwin said. Advice had also been sought from doctors in Singapore.

Baldwin, also head coach of the under-14s side, said 40 of the 60 boys who went to Singapore had developed symptoms of infection such as itchy, painful and red eyes and sensitivity to light.

A Health Department spokesman said the boys' symptoms pointed to keratoconjunctivitis, an inflammation of the cornea and the white of the eye caused by micro-organisms.

He said the department was investigating the outbreak with the Singaporean authorities. 'There have also been outbreaks in other teams, from Malaysia and Singapore, but only several people were affected,' he said.

'I think we have been particularly unfortunate to be hit so hard.'

Many of the Hong Kong boys have been unable to attend school since the start of the month and some may need to have exams postponed.

One mother, who did not wish to be named, said: 'Not only are we worried about our sons' medical condition, we're also concerned because they've missed so much school.'

She said her son and some of the other boys had seen three different doctors and had been unable to go to school for more than 10 days. Twenty boys are being treated at the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital in Happy Valley and the private hospital reported the outbreak to the Health Department last week.

The department spokesman said it was unclear whether the boys were infected in Singapore or Hong Kong, , and the authorities would work with their counterparts in Singapore to determine the cause.

'Members of the public - especially those who participated in the rugby tournament - should seek medical help if they develop similar symptoms,' he said.

The boys, who attend different schools, including the Discovery Bay International School, were said to be in stable condition and none had been kept in hospital.