The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is today (February 29) investigating a confirmed case of invasive meningococcal infection, a communicable disease transmitted by direct contact with droplets from carriers or infected persons.

Hong Kong/CIA
Hong Kong/CIA

The case involves an 8-year-old boy, with underlying illnesses, who has presented with fever, vomiting and diarrhoea since February 25. He was admitted to United Christian Hospital (UCH) on the same day and was discharged on February 27. He was re-admitted to UCH on February 28 as his blood culture collected on February 25 tested positive for Neisseria meningitidis. His clinical diagnosis was sepsis and he has been in stable condition all along.

Preliminary investigation by the CHP showed that the patient had no recent travel history and his home contacts have remained asymptomatic. He lives in a residential care home for persons with disabilities where no other cases were recorded.

The CHP’s investigation is continuing.

This is the first confirmed case of invasive meningococcal infection reported to the CHP this year. Five cases were filed each in 2015 and 2014.

“Meningococcal infection is caused by a bacterium known as meningococcus. It is mainly transmitted by direct contact through respiratory secretions, including droplets from the nose and throat, from infected persons. The incubation period varies from two to 10 days, and is commonly three to four days,” a spokesman for the CHP said.

The clinical picture may vary. Severe illness may result when the bacteria invades the bloodstream (meningococcaemia) or the membranes that envelop the brain and spinal cord (meningococcal meningitis).

Meningococcaemia is characterized by sudden onset of fever, intense headache, purpura, shock and even death in severe cases. Meningococcal meningitis is characterized by high fever, severe headache and stiff neck followed by drowsiness, vomiting, fear of bright light, or a rash. It can cause brain damage or even death. The brain damage may lead to intellectual impairment, mental retardation, hearing loss and electrolyte imbalance. Invasive meningococcal infections can be complicated by arthritis, inflammation of the heart muscle, inflammation of the posterior chamber of the eye or chest infection.

Meningococcal infection is a serious illness. Patients should be treated promptly with antibiotics.