For the first time in at least a decade, Hong Kong has experienced the loss of a child due to Scarlett Fever. And not just one death, but two. This is a mutated strain of the Fever, more resistant to antibiotics than in the past.
The victims were a 5-year-old boy who died in a hospital on Tuesday, and a 7-year-old girl who died in May. This year there have been 466 reported cases of the Scarlett Fever in Hong Kong, already twice the normal yearly rate. Authorities believe the outbreak may have spread to neighboring Macau which has seen 49 cases, a jump 16 cases last year, and mainland China, which has seen 9,000 cases so far this year, also double their normal annual rate.
The Macau daily times says that no deaths have been reported.
“Certain characteristics of the new strain likely make it more contagious, and it may be responsible for an outbreak sweeping Hong Kong”, said Professor Kwok-yung Yuen, head of Hong Kong University’s microbiology department.
“We are facing an epidemic because the bacteria causing scarlet fever is widely circulating in the region – not only in Hong Kong but neighboring places such as the mainland and Macau,” said Thomas Tsang, Head of Hong Kong’s Center of Health Protection.
This strain of Scarlett Fever is unique, having a 60% resistance to the antibiotics traditionally used to treat it. This is opposed to previous strains, which have shown a resistance of 10%-30%.
Scarlett Fever is a type of Streptococcal disease and is characterized by a bright red skin rash, fever and sore throat. It’s most commonly seen in younger children, under the age of 10.
Infectious diseases of this sort are a particular concern for citizens of Hong Kong. In 2003 the SARS outbreak killed 299 people.