Deaths from malaria in Hong Kong are rare, according to Department of Health figures, after it was revealed that a Cathay Pacific stewardess died of the disease last week. Akiko Chinen, 32, died on Friday, three days after being admitted semi-comatose and delirious to Canossa Hospital. She had seen two private doctors before her admission - the first five days before and the second the day before - and was prescribed antibiotics; but she was not diagnosed as suffering from malaria until Canossa Hospital conducted tests. In 1996, British teacher Simon Davies died of a virulent and fast spreading form of malaria in Princess Margaret Hospital after a trip to Myanmar. A coroner said he might have lived had treatment not been delayed. While recording a verdict of natural causes, coroner John Saunders said Davies' treatment was delayed for at least 36 hours when Queen Elizabeth Hospital was unable to process his blood test quickly and then failed to pass on the results to Princess Margaret Hospital. Yesterday, the president of the Hong Kong Society for Infectious Diseases, Dr Thomas Lai Sik-to, said doctors should exercise 'a degree of suspicion' when they saw patients who had returned from a place where malaria was endemic. 'If there is no known cause and when they have ruled out influenza, they should think about malaria,' said Dr Lai, head of the infectious disease unit at Princess Margaret Hospital. The Department of Health said there had been no deaths recorded among malaria patients treated from 1997 to 1999. There was one fatal case last year. There were 101 malaria cases in 1997; 54 in 1998; 55 in 1999; and 35 last year. There have been 39 cases up to October this year. All the sufferers have survived. Malaria is caused by a group of parasites transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. The disease is common in many parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and South America. People travelling to these areas are advised to take anti-malaria medication two to three weeks before they leave Hong Kong. The incubation period for the disease is usually 12 to 30 days after a mosquito bite. Symptoms include intermittent fever, chills and sweating.