Three more children hit by scarlet fever
Three children from the same primary school in Tuen Mun have been added to the list of youngsters across Hong Kong stricken by scarlet fever.
Details of the latest victims of the highly contagious and potentially fatal childhood disease were revealed yesterday, taking the number of cases city-wide this year to the highest level since records began in 1997.
They are two boys and a girl aged either six or seven, who have been suffering from fever, rashes, a sore throat and inflamed tongues since June 3.Two were sent to hospital and have been discharged. All are now in stable condition and have not travelled abroad recently.
Scarlet fever normally affects young children aged two to eight.
The rash appears over the trunk and neck and spreads to the limbs, especially armpits, elbows and groin.
A total of 373 scarlet fever cases have been reported so far this year.
Last weekend, a six-year-old boy was admitted to hospital and transferred to intensive care. He had not travelled recently either and is now in stable condition.
A seven-year-old girl studying at St Stephen's College Preparatory School in Stanley died on May 29 - the first fatality in five years.
There was speculation that a 15-year-old boy - studying at St Stephen's College in the same district - who died in Princess Margaret Hospital last week was also a victim of the disease.
Since scarlet fever was made a notifiable disease in 1997, the highest number of cases reported in a year was 235 in 2008. There were 187 cases in 2009 and 128 last year.
'Scarlet fever is transmitted through either the respiratory route or direct contact with infected respiratory secretions,' a Centre for Health Protection spokesman said.
He said scarlet fever was caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria and could be treated with the appropriate antibiotics.
Infectious-diseases specialist Dr Lo Wing-lok said the disease was related to a lack of use of antibiotics.
'The government has been actively discouraging the prescription of antibiotics in recent years. Doctors might not give enough antibiotics to kids who are found to have those symptoms in the first place,' he said.
'Doctors should give their patients an appropriate amount of antibiotics using assessments such as blood tests - to ensure the dosage is neither too much nor too little.'
Microbiologist Ho Pak-leung, at the University of Hong Kong, said there were always more cases in the first six months of a year - 140 of the year's 187 cases were in the first half of 2009.
The centre said people suspected to have the disease to consult a doctor.