Number of hand, foot and mouth disease cases at Hong Kong primary school hits 10
- Po Leung Kuk Fong Wong Kam Chuen Primary School suspends classes for Primary Five and Six for two weeks
A Hong Kong primary school hit with an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease reported yet another case on Thursday, as a top medical expert said a full-school closure was not necessary.
Po Leung Kuk Fong Wong Kam Chuen Primary School was notified that an 11-year-old boy in Primary Six had been diagnosed with HFMD, taking the list of infected pupils at the school to 10 since late October.
The Tuen Mun school said on Thursday all infected pupils were in Primary Five and Six. Eight of them were members of the school’s track and field team.
One boy, also 11, suffered from severe enterovirus (EV) 71 infection, and an inflamed brain and spinal cord. EV71 is one of the viruses that can cause HFMD, a common disease among children.
By Thursday afternoon, the boy’s condition, previously reported as critical, was serious. He was in Tuen Mun Hospital’s paediatric intensive care unit.
Classes for Primary Five and Six were suspended from Thursday for two weeks under the advice of the Centre for Health Protection, after there were signs that EV71 infection was spreading within those classes.
School continued for Primary One to Four pupils, as advised by the health authorities.
Despite parents expressing concern about pupils heading to school, Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, a top microbiologist from the University of Hong Kong, said a school-wide class suspension was unnecessary at this stage.
“If there were one to two cases found in each grade, [suspending all classes] could be considered,” Yuen said. But he noted that the number of cases at the Tuen Mun school amounted to a “significant outbreak”.
But one caregiver of a pupil at the school told local media she was worried, and hoped all classes would be suspended at the school.
“[Classrooms] of Primary Five, Six and some Primary Four pupils are also on the sixth floor. They are located close to each other,” said the woman, who gave her name only as Mrs Kwan.
People with HFMD usually have symptoms such as rashes on the palms of their hands and soles of their feet, and mouth ulcers. The disease usually spreads through direct contact with an infected person’s nose or throat discharge, saliva, or fluid from blisters.
The centre first revealed the outbreak on Wednesday evening, when nine boys, aged 11 to 12, were reported to have had symptoms since October 28.
“During the period of class suspension, all of the school’s track and field training and competitions have been cancelled,” the school said on Thursday. “Cleaning and disinfection works have also been enhanced in the campus.”
The school had arranged online learning for pupils affected by the class suspensions.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said factors such as the nature and setting of the school, the scale and progress of the outbreak and the level of mixing among pupils would be considered when deciding how many classes to suspend.
Eighteen institutional HFMD outbreaks, affecting 62 people from kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, were recorded last week. Eight such outbreaks, affecting 25 people, were recorded from Sunday to Wednesday.