The Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is investigating a fatal case of infection by Streptococcus suis, a kind of bacteria isolated from pigs, affecting a 57-year-old man.

The patient, with underlying illness, had developed fever, chills, diarrhea and generalized weakness since August 19. He attended the Accident and Emergency Department of Tseung Kwan O Hospital (TKOH) on August 20 and was directly admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. The patient passed away subsequently on the same day.

The clinical diagnosis is septic shock with multi-organ failure. His blood specimen collected on August 20 grew Streptococcus suis by TKOH.

Initial investigation by CHP revealed that the patient had no history of consumption or contact with raw or undercooked pork. He had no recent travel history and his home contacts remain asymptomatic.

Pig and piglet
Photo/Agricultural Research Service

Human Streptococcus suis infection is a zoonotic infection associated with pigs. The infection can be fatal, particularly if the specific strain produces certain toxins. S. suis infection can manifest itself in meningitis, toxic shock, septicemia and endocarditis.

Eating undercooked infected pork and blood paste are common ways people contract the disease.

Proper cooking of pork meat or porcine organs eliminates the risk of infection with Streptococcus suis. The infection in humans is not only seen in those who consume raw pork, but also in those who slaughter and prepare the meals.

Streptococcus suis infection can be treated with appropriate antibiotics.

To prevent the disease, members of the public are advised to always practise personal and environmental hygiene. They should avoid contact with pigs that are sick or dead from diseases and their excreta or body fluid. If contact with pigs or raw pork is necessary, one should:

* Use protective gloves;
* Wash hands after handling pigs or raw pork; and
* Clean and cover all wounds properly.

For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page