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Mystery virus strikes HK children
By Alfons Chan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-17 00:53

Medical experts in Hong Kong are puzzled by a mystery illness affecting children.

Doctors at the Caritas Medical Centre in Kowloon say two of 30 admitted patients have signs of respiratory tract infection while six of were suffering from fever.

"Infection-control measures have been stepped up at the hospital, and medical staff at laboratories in the Centre for Health Protection, local universities and the Department of Health are conducting tests to identify the source of the virus," said Hospital Authority Chief Executive William Ho, who visited the patients yesterday.

 Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok refused to say if the mystery illness was a new virus. He said it "could be related" to an existing disease which is prone to attacking children and patients with weaker immunity.

Health officials placed a "green" code warning around the hospital in the Sham Shui Po district and isolated the ward.

The hospital also closed its paediatric wards to new admissions, while visitors. including close family members, are required to wear protective gear and be subjected to restrictions.

The health chief urged citizens to be vigilant about their health during the peak flu season, adding that students with respiratory illnesses or fever should not go to school.

Meanwhile, consultant doctor at the Centre for Health Protection Thomas Tsang Ho-fai, revealed on a local radio programme two people who had been in touch with infected children had symptoms of fever. However, Ho said they had recovered quickly, indicating that the virus was "not very strong."

"Results of gene and virus tests would be available in about one or two days," he said.

Ho also told local radio that he does not rule out the possibility of some more cases in the coming days, but said the peak period of the infection had passed.

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