Health and wellness

Eight cases of tuberculosis confirmed at Hong Kong secondary school

Those infected – seven students and one employee – are in stable condition

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 8:54am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 12:15pm

Hong Kong health authorities confirmed on Tuesday that eight people from a secondary school in Sha Tin were infected with tuberculosis.

The Department of Health was told about the infections in early September, a spokesman said, without naming the school.

An initial investigation showed there were eight people involved: seven pupils and a school employee.

Those affected were all in stable conditions. The school continued normal operations, the spokesman said.

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The department’s tuberculosis and chest service had arranged latent tuberculosis screening for the students and teachers who had close contact with the eight. Presumptive treatments – done before test results are out – could be applied if needed, the spokesman said.

“Tuberculosis is still a common infectious disease in Hong Kong. Infections were occasionally seen in schools. The patients were usually spotted when they approached a doctor,” the spokesman said.

The airborne disease, which used to be a terrifying illness in the city decades ago, is one of 50 notifiable infectious diseases according to the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance. The symptoms include coughing up blood, chest pain, fatigue and fever.

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Hong Kong recorded 4,412 infection cases and 155 deaths last year, according to the department.

Dr Lee Tak-wai, a specialist in cardiothoracic surgery, said tuberculosis had not been eradicated due to difficulties in diagnosis and treatment.

The bacteria can hide in someone’s lymph nodes for decades. Related fatalities usually involved the elderly.

Lee said tuberculosis was still a global health risk, with a high prevalence of the disease both in Hong Kong and on the mainland.