Girl, 11, dies after pet hamster bites finger
Clifford Lo and Danny Mok
An autopsy will be conducted on the body of an 11-year-old girl who died yesterday after being bitten by a hamster at home in Ma On Shan.
The asthmatic girl was bitten on the little finger of her right hand while playing with her pet in her flat at Marbella Tower in On Chun Street shortly before 12.45am.
Her father, 46, said her wound was cleaned immediately. She then went into the bathroom, where she developed cramps and passed out.
She was rushed unconscious to Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin. Doctors declared her dead shortly after 2am.
Police said an initial investigation found nothing suspicious.
Paediatrician Dr Anthony Ng Wing-keung said it was rare to see a young asthma patient die of an allergic reaction within such a short time frame, unless they were hit by rare anaphylaxis - a rapid and severe allergic reaction that can kill within an hour.
The symptoms include rashes, throat and mouth swelling and cramps. The common causes include insect stings, food and medication.
Ng said asthmatic patients were usually advised not to keep furry pets, as fallen hair was an allergen, although he would not advise banning hamsters.
He said other organs of an asthmatic patient might also be vulnerable to allergens.
He would not rule out the possibility that the girl might have had other health problems that contributed to her rapid death.
Rebecca Ngan Yee-ling, communications manager at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said hamster bites were common but she had never heard of any serious health problems occurring as a result.
Ngan said the species was one of the most popular pets in the city but the problem was they bred quickly, resulting in many unwanted offspring.
The society currently has about 30 hamsters available for adoption.