Hong Kong hospital to blame for boy’s flu death, parents claim

They say he had to wait nearly seven hours for Tamiflu, but expert says emergency wards do not prescribe such antiviral drugs

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 January, 2017, 9:28pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 January, 2017, 9:38pm

Parents of a six-year-old boy who died from flu on Wednesday blamed Tuen Mun Hospital for delaying his treatment with antiviral drugs.

They said Cheung Tsz-yui was not given Tamiflu until almost seven hours after he arrived at the hospital’s accident and emergency unit on December 22 with a fever of 40.5 degrees Celsius and convulsions. He was the first person to die of flu in the city this winter.

But an expert said Tamiflu was seldom prescribed in emergency wards as it was not designed for acute treatment.

According to the boy’s parents, Tsz-yui, who was not vaccinated against flu, was given Tamiflu at around 11am when he was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit.

By that time his limbs were already stiff and his pupils were enlarged.

“Why was the drug used only when my son was in deep coma and critical?” his emotional mother asked, questioning why Tamiflu was not prescribed earlier despite her son having been assessed by a number of doctors.

The boy, who tested positive for influenza A, was given antipyretic and antibiotics before receiving the antiviral drug.

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Dr Ludwig Tsoi Chun-hing, president of the Society for Emergency Medicine and Surgery, said Tamiflu was rarely used at the level of acute treatment. He said it may already have been too late when the boy was taken to the hospital as the virus could have reached a fatal level.

According to guidelines on the use of Tamiflu by the Centre for Health Protection, the drug should be used within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms to achieve maximum efficacy.

Tsz-yiu had displayed symptoms of diarrhoea and fever in the three days before his parents took him to the hospital, during which time he was also taken to see a private doctor.

The College of Paediatricians said a vaccine was the best way to prevent flu and any related complications.

A hospital spokeswoman said on Thursday they were saddened by the boy’s death. Its patients relations officer had been followed up the family’s case and would provide all possible assistance.