74-year-old dies after rat hepatitis virus infects three seniors

Top News | Amy Nip and Jane Cheung 15 May 2019

Three elderly men were infected with rat hepatitis E virus, including a 74-year-old man who died.

They lived in Kowloon City, Southern District and Tuen Mun. They could not recall having direct contact with rodents or their feces and did not notice rats in their homes, the Centre for Health Protection said.

The 74-year-old man suffered from underlying illnesses and presented with liver function derangement. He was admitted to Tuen Mun Hospital due to his underlying illnesses on April 28 and died on May 4.

The other men, aged 67 and 81, also suffer form underlying illnesses. Both had presented with liver function derangement.

They were in a stable condition and no hospitalization was required.

The three men's blood samples tested positive for rat HEV upon laboratory testing.

The 67-year-old patient had traveled to Taiwan and Korea during the incubation period while the other two patients had no travel history.

"Based on the available epidemiological information, the source and the route of infection could not be determined. The center's investigation is ongoing," a center spokesman said.

The exact mode of transmission of rat HEV to humans is unknown at the moment. The usual HEV causing human infection is transmitted mainly through the fecal-oral route, meaning one having eaten food or drunk water contaminated by feces.

Hong Kong's first case of rat hepatitis E was announced last September. The faculty of medicine of the University of Hong Kong announced the discovery of the world's first human case of a strain of hepatitis E previously only found in rats.

The 56-year-old male patient lived in Choi Wan Estate, Choi Hung. He has since recovered.

At the time, Yuen Kwok-yung, the university's chair professor of infectious diseases, believed the man caught the disease after eating food contaminated by rats.

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