20 Jun 2012
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is investigating a confirmed case of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infection.
The patient is a 77-year-old woman with a history of chronic illness. She presented with watery diarrhoea and abdominal pain since May 25. She was admitted to Hong Kong Adventist Hospital on June 5. Her current condition is stable.
Her stool specimen today (June 20) yielded STEC.
The CHP's investigation revealed that the patient had no recent travel history. Her home contacts were asymptomatic. Investigation continues.
A CHP spokesman said, "Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a bacterium that is commonly found in the gut of humans and warm-blooded animals. Most strains of E. coli are harmless. Some strains, such as STEC, however, can produce powerful toxins and cause severe food-borne disease. Bacterial strains belonging to the STEC group have been sporadically detected in Hong Kong. The most recognised serogroup of STEC is E. coli O157:H7. Since June 2011, the CHP has expanded the criterion for notification to include all STECs, in addition to the classical E. coli O157:H7."
The spokesman said preventive measures for STEC infection are similar to those recommended for other food-borne diseases. Members of the public are urged to maintain good personal and food hygiene:
* Wash hands properly with liquid soap and water before eating or handling food, and after going to the toilet or changing diapers;
* Cook food and boil water thoroughly before consumption. Most food-borne viruses and bacteria (including STEC) can be killed when food is cooked or reheated long enough at sufficiently high temperature. When cooking or reheating, the core temperature of the food should reach at least 75 degrees Celsius;
* Young children, elderly people, pregnant women and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating high-risk foods, e.g. unpasteurised milk, soft cheese, prepared or stored salads and cold meats; and
* Consult your doctor immediately if you have symptoms of STEC infection, particularly bloody diarrhoea.