Hong Kong health care and hospitals

Dozens of Tuen Mun Hospital patients at risk of chickenpox infection

Patients at risk are being notified after man with virus visited the hospital’s outpatients centre on the fifth floor earlier this month

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 March, 2018, 8:05pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 March, 2018, 12:04pm

A total of 72 patients at Tuen Mun Hospital were on Thursday at risk of chickenpox infection, after it was revealed that a man with the virus visited the place earlier this month.

A spokesman for the hospital in the New Territories said the Centre for Health Protection told it on Tuesday that the man visited the hospital’s ambulatory care centre – which provides specialist outpatient services – on the fifth floor on March 13 and 14. 

The 28-year-old man was in a stable condition and did not require admission to hospital, according to a Department of Health spokesman. He developed a rash after visiting the hospital. He then went to Kwong Wah Hospital, Yau Ma Tei, on March 17 and 20 but was not admitted. The Centre for Health Protection later notified Tuen Mun. 

Dr Angus Chan Ming-wai, president of the College of Family Physicians, said chickenpox is a highly contagious disease, noting that since 2013 children in Hong Kong have been vaccinated against it at one year old and Primary One.

The illness usually causes fever and itchy skin rashes. It causes more serious problems for adults, as they can develop complications such as pneumonia, Chan said. Women infected in the first three months of pregnancy also face a risk of birth defects, he said.

But the doctor noted that 90 per cent of Hongkongers had had chickenpox in the past and people very rarely get the disease a second time. 

There were 9,353 cases of chickenpox last year, down from 10,926 in 2013. 

The Tuen Mun Hospital spokesman said that, in line with infection control guidelines, the hospital had traced the patients who visited the its fifth floor at the same time as the infected man.

He added that the hospital had started to contact the 72 people potentially at risk, to follow up on their condition and provide treatment.

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The spokesman said the hospital would continue to monitor the situation and had stepped up infection control measures.

A hotline service at 6468 0016 was set up for inquiries during office hours.