Published Date: 2005-07-28 23:50:00
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Streptococcus suis, human - China (Hong Kong)
Archive Number: 20050728.2196
STREPTOCOCCUS SUIS, HUMAN - CHINA (HONG KONG)
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Date: Thu 28 Jul 2005
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Source: The Standard [edited]
Swine virus fears mount
A case involving a Hong Kong man infected recently with the mysterious
swine bacterium was reported Thu, 28 Jul 2005, deepening concern over the
possible local impact of the disease that has killed 31 people in Sichuan
and bringing the number of local infections to 10 since May 2004.
The Center for Health Protection said the latest local case of a human
infection by the swine _Streptococcus suis_ type 2 organism involved a
26-year-old interior decorator who has not traveled to the mainland
recently and has had no contact with pigs. He was admitted to hospital 5
Jul 2005 and discharged a week later.
The Center for Health Protection said it does not know how he was infected.
No details have been given on the other 9 cases, apart from the fact that
one of those infected died.
From 1983 to 1994, there were 25 cases of human _Streptococcus suis_
infections in Hong Kong, according to a Chinese University study. In 1983,
an Australian medical journal said the virus was the leading cause of
meningitis in Hong Kong.
Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, York Chow, insisted Thursday there
is still no evidence to support a complete ban on pork imports despite the
mainland suspending all pork, mutton and other meat exports from Sichuan.
His stance outraged legislators who raised the specter of the early local
response to the 2003 SARS epidemic.
At a special meeting of the Legco health panel, Chow was criticized by
legislators from all parties over his reluctance to ban imports of frozen
pork. Chow said there were no precedents, no international guidelines and
no scientific evidence to support such a move. He said pork contaminated
with this organism was found worldwide and as much as 50 percent of pork
imported from Holland, New Zealand and Australia bore the bacterium [I am
not sure of the origin of this statement - Mod.LL].
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department assistant director Thomas Chung
told the panel that, so far this year, Hong Kong has imported more than 18
000 tons of frozen pork from Sichuan, of which 5000 tons came from the 2
most affected cities -- Ziyang and Neijiang.
"We will not trace the frozen pork that has been imported, or take samples
for streptococcus tests, because the product has passed state inspection
and the public need not panic," Chung said. But he warned that bacteria
inside the frozen meat may be revived when it was defrosted, so it must be
thoroughly cooked and carefully handled to prevent infection, whether from
swine streptococcus or other agents.
Chow said he is most concerned about whether the bacteria have mutated, but
said so far the Health Ministry has said no mutation was found. At the
invitation of the ministry, 3 experts from Hong Kong arrived in Sichuan
Wednesday to help determine if a large outbreak is possible. The group
includes a Hospital Authority infectious disease consultant, an
epidemiologist, and a Health Department pathologist.
[Byline: Matthew Lee]
[Certainly other previous cases of human _S. suis_ infection have occurred
in Hong Kong. These were sporadic, as indicated by 9 cases over 15
months. More clinical and epidemiological information is needed on this
case. Whether it is related to the Sichuan outbreak is unknown. - Mod.LL]