The Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is today (June 12) investigating a confirmed case of cholera, and reminds the public to observe good personal, food and environmental hygiene whether in Hong Kong or travelling abroad.

Vibrio cholerae

The case involves a 62-year-old woman, with underlying illness, who has had diarrhoea since June 1. She attended a general out-patient clinic on June 6 and was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital today for isolation treatment in stable condition.

Laboratory testing by the CHP’s Public Health Laboratory Services Branch showed that culture of her stool specimen yielded Vibrio cholerae O1 Ogawa.

Initial investigations by the CHP revealed that the patient had visited Myanmar from May 26 to June 2. Her travel collateral and home contact were asymptomatic. The CHP’s investigation is under way.

A CHP spokesman said, “Whether in Hong Kong or travelling abroad, people should pay attention to personal hygiene and take measures to prevent cholera and food-borne infection.”

Cholera is a bacterial disease that is most often spread by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Water is contaminated by the feces (stool) of an infected person or by untreated sewage. Food is often contaminated by water containing cholera bacteria or handled by a person ill with cholera.

Often people have mild illness or no symptoms. However, about 1 in 20 (5%) of infected people will have severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these people, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.

The public are urged to:

* Wash and cook seafood thoroughly before eating, particularly crustaceans and bivalves such as shrimps, crabs, oysters and clams;
* Wash hands before eating and after going to the toilet;
* Handle raw and cooked food with separate utensils to prevent cross-contamination;
* Keep raw and cooked food separately;
* Store food in a refrigerator (at 4 degrees Celsius or below) and thoroughly reheat leftover food before eating; and
* Keep the environment clean.

When travelling outside Hong Kong, they should:

* Always wash hands before eating and after going to the toilet;
* Eat only thoroughly cooked food and food from sealed packs or cans;
* Avoid cold dishes such as salad and ice cream;
* Drink only boiled water, canned or bottled drinks, and pasteurised milk or dairy products;
* Do not add ice to drinks and do not drink fresh fruit juice that has been prepared beforehand;
* Do not patronise illegal food hawkers; and
* Wash fruit thoroughly before eating and do not eat fruit that has already been peeled or cut open.