An outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease is threatening to disrupt Hong Kong's dominance at an East Asian Games rehearsal in Tianjin this week.
Six players were struck down with the disease last week, including world No 14 Annie Au Wing-chi and world No 22 Joey Chan Ho-ling, who were forced to withdraw from the Buler Challenge Cup at different stages of the tournament.
"It's strange so many players got infected, but fortunately the situation is now under control," head coach Tony Choi Yuk-kwan said yesterday. "All the infected players are recovering but we are still waiting for medical advice before we decide who will go to Tianjin on Thursday."
To try to stop the disease spreading, Choi ordered the six players to rest at home, while others in the squad are being spread out over more venues to minimise contact.
"Any player who has had a fever or a sore throat must consult a doctor because these two are symptoms of the disease," Choi said.
"The Sports Institute has also informed about the situation and as far as I know, they have taken measures to tighten hygiene conditions."
Hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral illness, but many doctors do not prescribe medicine as infection in adults is typically mild and lasts about a week. Early symptoms are likely to be fever, followed by a sore throat. Between one and two days after the onset of fever, painful sores may appear in the mouth or throat. A rash may become evident on the hands, feet, mouth, tongue, inside of the cheeks, and occasionally the buttocks.
Chan and Au started in the Buler Challenge Cup but were forced to withdraw in the semi-finals and final respectively. Au's younger brother, Leo Au Chun-ming, another infected player, lost in the opening round.
Max Lee Ho-yin, who was thought to be the origin of the infection, recovered before the tournament and went on to win the men's title, defeating Steven Finitsis of Australia in the final.
A spokesman for the Sports Institute said there had been no reported cases other than the squash players.
The Tianjin tournament is a pre-East Asian Games event with each participant sending one men's and one women's team, comprising three players each.
Annie Au, Leo Au, Chan and Lee are all members of the squad, but they can be replaced.
"Lee has fully recovered and can go to Tianjin," said Choi. "The three others, we are still not sure about. But even if they cannot go, we still have Liu Tze-ling and Tong Tze-wing in the women's team, while Au can be replaced by Wong Tze-him."