The government on Tuesday said the boy, who died that morning and had chicken pox prior to his death, was “very likely” a victim of scarlet fever, after declaring an outbreak of the disease in the city of seven million. “Test results showed that the five-year-old boy who died on Tuesday is confirmed to have suffered from scarlet fever,” a spokeswoman from the Centre for Health Protection told AFP. The test results was released late Wednesday.
She said the boy’s brothers, aged seven and 13, had also been tested for scarlet fever and results were still pending. The second fatality comes after the illness, which mainly affects children aged between two and eight, claimed the life of a seven-year-old girl last month and infected thousands of others in the city and elsewhere in China.
The spokeswoman also said 28 new cases had been reported since Tuesday, with the number of scarlet fever cases in Hong Kong at 494.
Scarlet fever (sometimes referred to as scarlatina) is an infectious disease characterized by fever, sore throat (pharyngitis), and a characteristic rash. Scarlet fever is caused by an infection with group A Streptococcus, the same bacteria responsible for causing “strep throat” and various other skin infections (such as, impetigo and erysipelas). Scarlet fever is predominantly a childhood disease occurring in children 2-10 years of age, though it can less commonly occur in older children and adults. The incidence and mortality rates associated with this once feared disease have significantly decreased due to the introduction and widespread use of antibiotics.
Because it is so contagious, scarlet fever historically has been responsible for devastating epidemics, particularly in the 19th century. In 1923, the husband and wife team of George and Gladys Dick identified the streptococci bacterium responsible for causing scarlet fever, and shortly thereafter they isolated the toxin responsible for causing the characteristic rash of scarlet fever. This led to the development of a test once used to determine an individual’s immunity or susceptibility to scarlet fever and to the development of a patented vaccine. The vaccine is no longer used, as its use was eliminated by the advent of antibiotics.
Have we gone full circle, where the epidemics of the past are coming back to haunt us, once again. Does this mean that our society has become complacent in thinking that once we hae cure for a germ or virus that it will go away. Vaccinate your children for all these horrible diseases and save their precious lives.
- Mutated Strain of Scarlet Fever Kills 2 Children in Hong Kong (blippitt.com)
- Scarlet fever cases spike in Winnipeg (cbc.ca)
- Mutated strain of scarlet fever suspected in death of second Hong Kong child (theglobeandmail.com)