The Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is today (December 31) investigating an imported death case of rabies affecting a man aged 28.


The patient, with good past health, worked in Indonesia. He started to have low back pain since September this year. In early November, he developed low grade fever, loin pain, vomiting and walking difficulty.

He returned to Hong Kong on December 1 to seek treatment. He was admitted to Yan Chai Hospital on the same day. He was transferred to Intensive Care Unit on December 8 and passed away on December 22.

His brain tissue tested positive for rabies virus upon laboratory testing by the CHP’s Public Health Laboratory Services Branch.

Initial investigation revealed that the patient had been bitten by a dog at his workplace in Indonesia in July. There was no dog bite while he was in Hong Kong. There were no pets in his home in Hong Kong.

The CHP is tracing his home contacts and contacts at Yan Chai Hospital.

“Rabies is an acute infection of the central nervous system caused by the rabies virus. It affects mammals like dogs, cats, foxes, bats and humans. When humans are bitten, scratched or licked over their broken skin by an infected animal, the virus in the saliva of the infected animal enters the human body through the wound and travels through nerves to the brain, leading to encephalitis,” a spokesman for CHP said.

“Transmission of rabies from person to person is not documented. The last local human case was reported in Hong Kong in 1981 and the last imported human case was reported in 2001.” the spokesman said.

The incubation period of rabies may last for a few days to several years, but it is usually three to eight weeks. The initial symptoms may be nonspecific flu-like symptoms such as malaise, fever, or headache, which may last for days. There may be numbness and tingling around the site of the wound. These are followed after a few days by anxiety, confusion, spasm of swallowing muscles, paralysis, coma and death.

Members of the public should avoid stray animals. In case being bitten by an animal, wash the wound with water and soap and seek medical attention at the nearest Accident and Emergency Department immediately.