Inquiry launched after boy, 8, falls ill and dies in days

Only son of Sha Tin councillor diagnosed with encephalitis; school asks parents to be on guard

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2014, 3:54am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2014, 3:54am

The sudden death of the eight-year-old son of a Sha Tin district councillor has triggered an investigation by the Centre for Health Protection after tests showed he had encephalitis.

Ted Lau, who attended Pui Ching Primary School in Ho Man Tin, fell ill with a fever and vomiting on June 15 and two days later was admitted to Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin. His condition deteriorated and he was transferred to intensive care last Friday but died on Sunday.

A spokesman for the Centre for Health Protection said he was diagnosed with encephalitis, an acute inflammatory disease of the brain. The bacteria Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which can cause pneumonia and, in rare cases, encephalitis, was found in his windpipe.

He said an inquiry had been launched and no outbreak of infectious disease had been detected at the school.

The boy was the only son of Lau Wai-lun, who represents the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong on Sha Tin district council.

An assistant to Lau said last night that doctors had ruled out any link between Ted's illness and the pool at the clubhouse of Metro City in Tseung Kwan O where he went swimming. Doctors had said the boy's immune system may have responded abnormally, the assistant added.

The head of Ted's school, Chang Kwong-tak, wrote to parents yesterday asking them to be on guard for signs of illness. He said a crisis management group had been set up and counselling would be provided for anyone in need.

Miranda Lau, whose daughter is in her final year at the school, said she was saddened and shocked by the news and said other parents had spoken of Ted as a strong, healthy boy. "We believe medicine is so advanced, but it still failed to detect the disease in time," she said.

Pediatrician Dr Tse Hung-hing said encephalitis triggered by Mycoplasma pneumonia e was unusual. Pneumonia caused by the bacteria was common, he said, but it rarely proved fatal.

The Centre for Health Protection spokesman said the bacteria could be spread in airborne droplets following a cough or sneeze. " Mycoplasma pneumoniae most commonly causes acute upper and lower respiratory illness and the disease usually has a prolonged and gradual onset," he said.