Imported Case Of Leptospirosis Under Investigation In Hong Kong

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The Centre for Health Protection of the Hong Kong Department of Health is investigating an imported case of leptospirosis (an infectious disease caused by bacteria found in the waste of infected animals) involving a 38-year-old man.

A CHP spokesman said the patient developed fever, headache, arthralgia, myalgia, diarrhea and vomiting on October 22. He attended Accident and Emergency Department of Princess Margaret Hospital on the same day. His symptoms persisted and he was admitted to North District Hospital on October 28. He was discharged on November 8.

Laboratory tests on his blood sample yielded positive results for leptospirosis.

Investigations revealed that he had travelled to Malaysia with his friends from October 3 to 9. The travel companions did not show any symptom of leptospirosis.

This is the fifth leptospirosis case reported to the CHP this year. There were seven, three and 10 cases of leptospirosis reported to the CHP in 2005, 2006 and 2007 respectively.

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The spokesman said leptospirosis was a zoonotic (animal) disease caused by the bacteria, leptospira, which could be found in some animals including rodents, cattle, pigs, horses and dogs.

Most human infections occur through contact with urine excreted by infected mammals primarily through skin abrasions, open wounds or mucous membranes, and occasionally through ingestion or inhalation.

The disease is normally not transmissible among human, and the incubation period is usually between five to 14 days.

The spokesman said people infected with leptospirosis commonly presented with a flu-like illness with high fever, headache, muscle pains, red eye, sore throat and rash. In some cases, the disease can cause anemia (a kind of blood disease) and affect the liver, kidneys, lungs, and other internal organs. The disease can be treated effectively with antibiotics.

"Overseas outbreaks of leptospirosis are usually related to occupational or recreational water exposures, such as water contaminated with urine of infected animals," the spokesman said.

He said that the risk of infection could be minimised by covering open wounds properly and avoiding contact with urine of live mammals and objects contaminated by them as well as polluted water.

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