Hong Kong: Call for vigilance against chickenpox and scarlet fever

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) today (November 14) reminded members of the public and management of schools to step up personal and environmental hygiene in the wake of a recent increase of chickenpox and scarlet fever in Hong Kong.

A CHP spokesman said that the Centre was notified of 743 chickenpox cases in October, as compared with 390 in September. The weekly number of chickenpox notifications gradually increased from 147 in the week ending October 6 to 239 in the week ending November 10. Similarly, the weekly number of scarlet fever cases recorded also increased from 10 in the week ending October 6 to 33 in the week ending November 10.

Chickenpox is a common childhood infection. Chickenpox is transmitted by direct person-to-person contact, through airborne droplets or airborne spread of the discharge from the respiratory tract, and indirectly from articles freshly soiled by discharges from the infected persons lesions. Although chickenpox is usually a mild and self-limiting disease, those with low body resistance are more likely to suffer from complications such as skin infection, scarlet fever, pneumonia and encephalitis.Newborn babies who develop chickenpox are susceptible to more severe illness and even death.

Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection caused by Group A Streptococcus (GAS) which mostly affects children. GAS is transmitted mainly through the respiratory route or direct contact with infected respiratory secretions. Scarlet fever classically presents as fever, sore throat, red and swollen tongue (often known as strawberry tongue) and erythematous rash characterised by a sandpaper texture. Complications may sometimes occur such as middle ear infection, throat abscess, pneumonia, septicaemia, meningitis, and rarely toxic shock syndrome.

The CHP issued letters to health care professionals and the management of schools and institutions today to alert them to the recent increase in chickenpox and scarlet fever and to provide health advice.

To prevent chickenpox and scarlet fever, the public should take the following precautions:

* Maintain good personal and environmental hygiene;
* Keep hands clean and wash hands properly;
* Cover nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing and dispose nasal and mouth discharge properly;
* Wash hands after sneezing, coughing or cleaning the nose;
* Maintain good ventilation;
* Avoid visiting crowded places with poor ventilation;
* Refrain from work or school and wear surgical mask and seek medical advice promptly if fever or symptoms of respiratory tract infection develop; and
* parents can approach their family doctors for further advice and information on chickenpox vaccination.

Members of the public can obtain more information on the prevention of chickenpox and scarlet fever from the CHPs website (www.chp.gov.hk) or by calling the Central Health Education Unit hotline, 2833 0111.

November 14th, 2012 @ 09:30pm