Flu in Hong Kong

Young Hong Kong girl dies after catching flu infection, the third such death this year

Nine-year-old is first child to die from influenza since the end of the winter flu season, but doctor says it is an isolated case

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2018, 7:30am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2018, 10:12am

A nine-year-old Hong Kong girl with chronic illnesses died after contracting a flu infection, the first death among children in the city since the end of the peak winter flu season.

The Centre for Health Protection is investigating the case of the girl, who studied at SAHK Jockey Club Elaine Field School, an institution in Tai Po for children with physical disabilities.

She tested positive for influenza A virus, and was diagnosed with flu-associated encephalitis, an acute brain inflammation.

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The Tai Po school the girl attended recently had an outbreak of influenza A infection. Twelve other pupils aged six to 17 and two school staff members had all developed fevers, coughs and sore throats since June 27. All sought medical attention and nine pupils were taken to hospital. They are now in a stable condition.

According to the school’s website, it began the summer holiday early on Monday due to the flu outbreak.

Health officers conducted a site visit to the school, which has been placed under medical surveillance.

During the winter flu season this year, the city recorded two similar deaths among children in January. The latest case was the third child death related to the flu infection recorded this year.

The centre said the girl had a fever and convulsions since July 1, and was admitted to Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital on the same day.

She was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit at Prince of Wales Hospital the next day, but her condition deteriorated. She died on July 4.

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An initial investigation showed the girl had received a flu vaccine for the current season and had no travel history during the incubation period.

Her elder brother had symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection since June 27 and recovered. But others at home, including her parents and a domestic helper, remained asymptomatic so far.

The case has also been referred to the coroner for investigation.

Dr Henry Yeung Chiu-fat, a specialist in paediatrics and president of the Hong Kong Doctors Union, considered this fatal case as isolated as he had seen no signs of a summer peak of flu at this point. Less than one per cent of his patients had suffered from flu, he said.

He said the flu vaccine the girl was given could only provide 70 per cent protection against some of those strongest types of flu virus.

The girl’s chronic illnesses could also have weakened her immune system.