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Hong Kong health care and hospitals

Hong Kong boy, 2, dies after pneumococcal infection in third such fatality this year

Patient developed fever, cough and running nose and was taken to hospital, where his condition deteriorated

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 9:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 11:26am

A two-year-old boy died on Thursday after suffering from a pneumococcal infection, in the third such fatality involving children this year.

The patient, who had a record of good health and had received pneumococcal vaccines, developed a fever, cough and running nose and started vomiting on November 13, the Centre for Health Protection said.

He consulted a private doctor. On Wednesday, the boy was found to have decreased consciousness and was brought to Tuen Mun Hospital, where his condition deteriorated, and he died the next day.

The clinical diagnosis was meningitis, the centre said. The boy’s cerebrospinal fluid specimen tested positive for Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria (or pneumococcus), which caused the infection.

Pneumococci are commonly found in the nose and throat of healthy people, particularly in children.

The centre’s investigation showed that the deceased had no recent travel history. Apart from a domestic helper, who had upper respiratory symptoms and was in a stable condition, other home contacts remained asymptomatic.

No similar cases or outbreaks had been reported at the kindergarten the boy attended. The centre has advised the kindergarten on prevention of respiratory infectious diseases. Investigations are ongoing.

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In March and April, a five-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl died from similar infections. All three children had received the standard pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13), which provides protection against the 13 commonest pneumococci serotypes, out of about 90 serotypes.

Paediatrician Dr Tse Hung-hing speculated that the latest fatality could have been caused by a serotype that was not covered by the vaccine. He said parents should understand the limitations of the vaccine. Though they are “not omnipotent”, Tse said, it is “always better to get the jabs”.

“The second most important thing for parents is to maintain good personal hygiene for their kids. And they should immediately consult a doctor if symptoms are spotted and not wait until a fever is seen,” the doctor said.

Infections involving strains covered by the vaccine had become less common, while cases involving uncovered strains were on the rise due to mutations and other reasons, he added.