Vigilance Against Viral Hepatitis A Infection Urged

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The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Hong Kong Department of Health is investigating a case of hepatitis A infection involving a 10-year-old boy.

The boy started to develop diarrhea on October 1, and later symptoms of viral hepatitis including jaundice and dark colour urine on October 7.

He sought treatment at Aberdeen Out-patient Clinic Clinic on October 14. He did not require hospitalization and his current condition is stable.

Laboratory tests on his blood subsequently revealed positive result to hepatitis A infection.

The boy had no recent history of travel outside Hong Kong and his family members had no symptoms.

CHP's investigation revealed that an imported case of Hepatitis A affecting an eight-year-old girl was reported on October 8 at the primary school the boy attending.

The girl visited Pakistan from July 11 to August 27. She started to develop symptoms of Hepatitis A on September 29. No hospitalization is required. Her condition is stable.

Based on epidemiological findings, including the onset dates and the exposure history, the boy did not contract hepatitis A infection from the girl in the school.

"An alternative source of infection outside the school is being investigated for the boy's case," a CHP spokesman said.

CHP has visited the school and gave health talk to the management. Fact sheets on hepatitis were delivered to parents via the school.

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CHP is closely monitoring the situation.

The spokesman said hepatitis A was one form of viral hepatitis and was transmitted by faecal-oral route through contaminated food, drinks and shellfish or directly from person-to-person.

"The incubation period of the disease is usually around four weeks but may range from 15 days to 50 days.

"Affected persons of Hepatitis A may be asymptomatic. Those who have symptoms may have poor appetite, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, upper abdominal discomfort, jaundice and tea-coloured urine.

"The illness lasts a few weeks but may sometimes last months. Most patients have a complete recovery but in a few cases, the damage on the liver may be prolonged. Immunity is usually life-long and there is no chronic carrier state," the spokesman said.

To prevent Hepatitis A, members of the public should

- observe good personal hygiene and food hygiene;

- wash hands before preparing food, before meals and after going to toilet;

- avoid drinking contaminated water or beverage with ice of doubtful origin, eating uncooked or undercooked food, particularly shellfish, and eating cut or peeled fruits;

- Hepatitis A vaccine should be considered for travelers visiting high risk areas;

- people looking after patients with viral hepatitis should wear gowns if soiling is likely and they should used gloves when handling contaminated materials.

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