Novel coronavirus

Girl, 4, isolated amid fears of deadly coronavirus

Filipino child who came from Middle East tests negative but Hongkongers are warned to be alert

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 6:55am

A four-year-old girl visiting from Qatar has been isolated after she tested negative for a deadly Sars-like virus yesterday.

The girl had initially sparked fears that the novel coronavirus had reached Hong Kong after she showed signs of carrying the virus that has killed at least nine people around the world.

She was instead found to be carrying the less dangerous adenovirus, a member of the cold virus family.

Nevertheless, health officials warned Hongkongers to stay vigilant against the new virus.

Last night, rapid tests were carried out on the girl from the Philippines who had previously travelled to Qatar with her parents. The 16 reported cases of novel coronavirus are mainly in the Middle East.

The child first displayed symptoms on Friday and was sent to a private clinic. She was then transferred to Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam with a fever and a headache.

She was now in a stable condition, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said.

Most adenovirus infections are mild and require no therapy or treatment of the flu-like symptoms. Deaths are exceedingly rare.

Ko said the World Health Organisation had just informed the city of a 16th case of novel coronavirus, which causes severe respiratory disease. The patient, based in the Middle East, was a contact of the 15th case, which the WHO reported on March 12.

"I have to renew our appeal to all Hong Kong people to remain vigilant and adopt good personal hygiene practices and a healthy lifestyle," Ko said on the sidelines of a 2013 World Tuberculosis Day awareness event.

Reports of the first cases of the novel coronavirus in Europe caused panic in Hong Kong, as memories were revived of the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2003.

The Sars virus, which plunged the city into turmoil and eventually killed 299 people in Hong Kong, arrived via an infected tourist. The epidemic prompted officials to overhaul hospital and immigration procedures aimed at guarding against viral transmissions.

According to the WHO, the novel coronavirus has killed nine out of the 16 people who were infected, meaning its death rate could be higher than 50 per cent.