Family of three with no travel history infected

Top News | Jane Cheung 6 Feb 2020

Jane Cheung

A family of three were the latest cluster to have infected each other, despite no travel history to the mainland, as the number of coronavirus cases rose to 21 with four new cases.

Two were critical and the rest were in stable condition yesterday, a day after Hong Kong saw its first fatality when a diabetic man rapidly deteriorated within hours and died.

The mother and daughter in the cluster of three, aged 56 and 28, live in the same Lam Tin flat as a 60-year-old man, the 17th case confirmed with the virus.

The two women were sent to United Christian Hospital on Tuesday night and their test results confirmed yesterday.

A woman claiming to be the daughter wrote on Facebook that she had been suffering from a fever and cough for several days, but was now resting and taking medication.

She believed she and her mother were infected through community transmission since they have had no contact with her father since he was admitted to hospital.

The Hospital Authority's chief manager for infection, emergency, and contingency, Vivien Chuang Wai-man, said the source of the family cluster could be the father.

He first fell ill on January 22 while the daughter became ill last Thursday and the mother developed a fever on Tuesday.

Also among the latest cases is a 56-year-old man who lives in Tsing Yi but works in Shenzhen.

He previously saw several private doctors and was later sent to Princess Margaret Hospital after suffering from breathing difficulties on Tuesday.

The fourth new case is a 25-year-old resident of To Kwa Wan - the youngest patient in the SAR - who has no travel history but fell ill in mid-January.

"He went to private doctors and was tested positive for influenza A, after which he took medication and got better but subsequently started having fever and coughs," Chuang said, adding that he had received a chest scan at Baptist Hospital on Monday which had suggested signs of pneumonia.

The man was later transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital.

Sources said the 25-year-old had been in close contact with a couple who both worked at the Bank of East Asia. The bank yesterday confirmed that 25 employees at an office in Kwun Tong had been placed under voluntary quarantine after two workers had been in close contact with a patient.

Times Square mall also confirmed that a store employee working on the third floor went into self-quarantine due to being a family member of a confirmed case, though there was no close contact between the two.

A local expert warned of limited community outbreaks as five of the confirmed cases had no travel history to the mainland.

Infectious disease expert Ho Pak-leung from the University of Hong Kong said the virus is being spread locally by "invisible patients."

He added: "If the virus continues to spread like influenza, I estimate 20 to 30 percent of citizens will be infected."

Since the number of confirmed cases has exceeded 20, new cases will be sent to the lead hospitals at each of the seven clusters, with each cluster to accommodate 20 patients to prevent overload at Princess Margaret Hospital.

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