The Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health reported investigating a case of infection by Streptococcus suis, a kind of bacteria from pigs.

Image/Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Image/Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture

The female patient, aged 74 with underlying illnesses, presented with fever, dizziness, vomiting and pain and swelling in her right hand since November 8. She was admitted to United Christian Hospital (UCH) on the same day and was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit for further management on November 9.

The clinical diagnosis was cellulitis and sepsis. She was in critical condition.

Her blood sample was cultured positive for Streptococcus suis upon laboratory testing by UCH.

Initial inquiries revealed that the patient had prepared pig offal bought from a local market with bare hands at home on November 7. She had no recent travel history and home contacts have so far remained asymptomatic.

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 practice 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.