Potential cluster at Queen Elizabeth Hospital ward

Top News | Jane Cheung 15 Jul 2020

A 77-year-old woman could have contracted the coronavirus from a patient who was at the same public hospital ward prior to being isolated, the Hospital Authority said.

The woman was among yesterday's 48 cases comprising 27 men and 21 women aged 19 to 90.

Eight were imported, 16 were linked to previous local cases and 24 were from unknown sources, taking Hong Kong's total to 1,570 infections, including eight deaths.

The Centre for Health Protection's head of communicable disease branch, Chuang Shuk-kwan, said the elderly woman is a resident of Helping Hand Hong Kong Bank Foundation Lok Fu Care Home.

Her bed at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was near to that of a 92-year-old woman diagnosed with Covid-19 on Monday.

Sources said another patient from the same ward tested positive last night, taking the number of coronavirus cases in the ward to three out of 10.

The Helping Hand resident was admitted to Queen Elizabeth on June 28 after a fall and was discharged on July 2. But she was sent back to the hospital that night due to hypertension and diabetes.

She stayed at the accident and emergency department and was transferred to the internal medicine ward on Thursday. The older woman was in a bed diagonal to hers on Sunday.

By the time the 92-year-old tested positive on Sunday night and was transferred to an isolation ward, the younger senior had already been transferred to Buddhist Hospital for rehabilitation.

The Hospital Authority's chief manager for quality and standards, Lau Ka-hin, said patients who had stayed in the same ward were tested after the 77-year-old was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

"When she first got to Buddhist Hospital, she tested negative," Lau said. "Since testing positive, she has developed a fever."

He said the woman has a low viral load and an antibody test will be given to see if she was recently infected.

"Infectious disease experts and microbiologists are looking at her case to see if they can find out whether the source of infection came from inside or outside the hospital," he said. "But we may not come to a conclusion."

Four patients sharing the same ward as the 77-year-old in Buddhist Hospital will be moved to isolation wards as a precautionary measure.

Chuang said the woman only stayed at her elderly home for several hours before being readmitted to hospital, but health officers will still distribute deep throat saliva bottles to residents and staff there.

Lau said an 83-year-old woman was yesterday diagnosed with Covid-19 after having a heart scan at Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung on Thursday.

The patient developed a runny nose, cough and a slight fever two days later and was readmitted to hospital on Sunday, when she tested positive.

Despite the heart scan being a low-risk procedure, a nurse at the emergency room had to be quarantined because the woman pulled off her mask and sneezed into the nurse's face.

"Although the nurse was wearing a mask, the patient's saliva got on her face and she has been classified as a close contact," Lau said.

A female contract cleaner at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin also became a confirmed case yesterday. Her husband, a 75-year-old part-time taxi driver, was diagnosed with the virus on Monday.

She is responsible for cleaning wards but has not been in direct contact with patients. Eighty of her colleagues will be tested and her daughter who also works as a clerk in the hospital has tested negative but will be sent to quarantine.

Yesterday also saw at least seven more patients linked to Tsz Wan Shan Centre and wet market, with two more cases having been to Sham Shui Po's Pei Ho Street Market.

jane.cheung@singtaonewscorp.com

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