Hong Kong primary school suspends some classes after hand, foot, and mouth disease outbreak leaves boy in critical condition and sickens 8 others

  • Po Leung Kuk Fong Wong Kam Chuen Primary School in Tuen Mun halts Primary Five and Six classes for two weeks after signs of disease spreading
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2018, 12:13am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 November, 2018, 12:53am

A primary school in Hong Kong on Wednesday said it would suspend some classes for two weeks after an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) infected nine pupils including an 11-year-old boy who was in a critical condition in hospital.

Po Leung Kuk Fong Wong Kam Chuen Primary School in Tuen Mun posted a notice on its website saying Primary Five and Six classes would be suspended from Thursday until November 21 under the advice of the Department of Health.

The suspension was advised because there were signs of the viral disease spreading among these classes, it said. However, classes would continue for other pupils.

The school said it would also suspend or cancel student activities.

The department said on Wednesday night that the 11-year-old boy, of past good health, had suffered a fever, cough and runny nose since October 30. He was admitted to Tuen Mun Hospital for treatment on November 3. After having developed convulsions and upper limbs weakness on November 4, the boy was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit that day.

The boy was infected with the severe enterovirus EV71, one of the causative agents for HFMD.

“The patient is now in a critical condition,” the department said.

Outbreak of hand, foot, and mouth disease hits Hong Kong school

According to the department, the boy had no travel history during the incubation period. His father had upper respiratory symptoms recently but was in a stable condition and the rest of the family had no symptoms. The department said there was an earlier outbreak of HFMD at the school.

Another eight boys, aged 11 to 12, had developed HFMD symptoms since October 28. They were in a stable condition after seeking medical attention. None was admitted to hospital.

A spokesman for the Centre for Health Protection said HFMD activity locally was at a high level and young children were more susceptible.

“Institutional outbreaks may occur where HFMD can easily spread among young children with close contact,” the spokesman said.

HFMD is clinically characterised by rashes or lesions occurring on the palms, soles and other parts of the body, such as the buttocks and thighs. The lesions and ulcers may also be found in one’s oral cavity.

The infection is transmitted from person to person by direct contact with discharges from the nose and throat, saliva, fluid from blisters, or the stool of infected people.

The usual peak season for HFMD and EV71 infection is from May to July. A smaller peak may also occur from October to December. There is no specific treatment for HFMD or EV71 infection.

Dr Henry Yeung Chiu-fat, a specialist in paediatrics and president of the Hong Kong Doctors Union, said the school should suspend all classes as pupils from different grades still had a chance of coming into contact with each other including during lunch and while in public spaces.

“It would also help relieve parents’ concerns,” Yeung said.

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According to the data from the centre, there have been 339 institutional outbreaks of HFMD with 45 EV71 infections this year.

The centre’s website said EV71 infection was of particular concern because “it more likely associates with severe outcomes and even death”.

The disease was at its most contagious during the first week of illness. Preventive measures included maintaining good air circulation, keeping hands clean and avoiding going to overcrowded places.