Hong Kong health officials are asking the public to be vigilant to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene as the city is reporting a surge in hepatitis A cases since the beginning of the year.


Hepatitis A Image/CDC
Hepatitis A Image/CDC

As of Wednesday, 33 cases of hepatitis A had been recorded this year, indicating an upsurge compared with 12 cases each in the first quarters of 2012, 2013 and 2014. Of note, 20 cases were filed in February 2015, which is the highest monthly number since April 2004.

“The 33 cases so far this year affected 16 males and 17 females aged from 11 to 66, with a median age of 33. All cases are sporadic with patients living in various districts across the territory, including eight on Hong Kong Island, nine in Kowloon and the remaining 16 in the New Territories. All of them are now in stable condition with no fatalities. While the incubation period of hepatitis A is generally long, usually around four weeks but may be as long as 50 days, our investigations are ongoing with a view to studying if the cases were epidemiologically linked,” a spokesman for the CHP explained.

In 2012, 2013 and 2014, the yearly totals were 43, 44 and 46 cases respectively.

“Hepatitis A is an infection caused by hepatitis A virus leading to inflammation of the liver cells. It is clinically characterized by poor appetite, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, upper abdominal discomfort, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes) and tea-colored urine. The illness may last for a few weeks but in rare cases may take months to resolve. Most patients have a complete recovery, but in a few cases, the damage to the liver may be prolonged,” the spokesman explained.

Hepatitis A virus is usually transmitted by a fecal-oral route either through contaminated drinks or food such as shellfish, or directly from person to person.