SCMP Friday, August 18, 2000

Virus kills girl, 5, within two days

ELLA LEE


A five-year-old girl has died after being infected by a virus during a trip to the mainland, the Department of Health confirmed last night.

It is the second fatal case of enterovirus 71, or EV71 - which can cause hand-foot-mouth disease - since the Government set up a surveillance programme during 1998 outbreaks. The latest victim became ill on July 29.

She was admitted to Tuen Mun Hospital the next day. Her condition deteriorated on July 31, when she suffered a high fever and tremors. She died after two hours of resuscitation failed.

The department believes the girl contracted the infection on the mainland. Her parents and sister, eight, who live in Yuen Long, have shown no symptoms.

A two-year-old boy died from the infection in May last year. University of Hong Kong microbiologist Dr Ho Pak-leung said people infected with EV71 could die within hours from brain infections and bleeding in the lungs.

He said there was no sign that the girl's death signalled a new outbreak of EV71, but parents and teachers have been warned to be careful as summer is peak season for the virus.

The department's consultant in community medicine, Dr Tse Lai-yin, said: "This is a sporadic imported case and there is no cause for undue alarm." She said infections were usually mild.

The first case of EV71 infection this year was reported in May. The patient, a boy of three, has fully recovered. There were 22 confirmed cases last year.