Water samples taken in hunt for deadly amoeba

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 August, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 August, 1993, 12:00am

HEALTH inspectors yesterday took samples of water from two public toilets and a private home in a second attempt to find the source of the harmful amoeba which killed a boy last month.

The samples were taken from wash basins at St Stephen's Beach public toilet and the first floor public toilet of the Siu Sai Wan Estate shopping centre, in Eastern District, both of which were visited by Lee Wing-lok, 15, who died of meningitis caused by an amoeba called Naegleria fowleri.

They also took a sample from the Hiu Tsui Court home of a friend whom Wing-lok had visited on the day of his hiking trip.

The move was sparked after Wing-lok's family said he had not swum in any polluted streams during an outing to Stanley.

Government doctors had suspected this was how the amoeba entered Wing-lok's body after tests of all swimming pools were negative.

The amoeba may be found in polluted streams.

The investigation was carried out by the Urban Services Department and the Department of Health, with the police acting as co-ordinator of the report which will be sent to the coroner.

The test results will be ready in about two weeks, a police spokesman said.

According to the Urban Services Department, water in public toilets was simply tap water - exactly the same as that supplied to private homes.

Acting chief chemist for the Water Supplies Department Cheung Tze-leung said the water supply was tested regularly at all stages and to his knowledge, no amoeba had ever been found.

He said the chances of amoebae entering the supply via a leaking pipe were remote. ''The mains are all pressurised so if there is any leak, the leak is outwards,'' he said.

The department also thoroughly flushed any mended pipe before turning the supply back on.

He said complaints that the St Stephen's Beach public toilet water was smelly and discoloured could be due to the tap not being used very often.