Investigation underway into severe cases of paediatric COVID-19 and influenza A infection in Hong Kong

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9th December 2023 – (Hong Kong) The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is currently investigating a case of severe pediatric COVID-19 and a case of severe pediatric influenza A infection. The CHP has urged the community to remain vigilant against respiratory tract infections, particularly during the winter season. Vaccination is emphasized as an effective measure to prevent serious cases of COVID-19 and influenza, with high-risk individuals, including pregnant women, encouraged to get vaccinated without delay. Individuals experiencing symptoms, even if mild, are advised to wear masks and seek prompt medical advice to reduce the risk of infection among high-risk individuals. Strict personal, hand, and environmental hygiene practices should also be observed at all times.

The severe case of COVID-19 involves an 8-month-old girl with no significant medical history. She experienced symptoms such as fever, poor appetite, cough, and runny nose on 5th December and tested positive for COVID-19 through a rapid antigen test (RAT). Due to worsening symptoms, including difficulty in breathing, she was admitted to the Accident and Emergency Department (AED) of Kwong Wah Hospital on December 7. Following admission, she was transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit of the hospital. Laboratory testing confirmed the presence of the COVID-19 virus in her nasopharyngeal swab, and she was clinically diagnosed with bronchiolitis. The girl remains in a serious condition and continues to receive medical care.

Preliminary investigations by the CHP indicate that the patient had no travel history during the incubation period and had not received a COVID-19 vaccine. However, the mother had received initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine before the pregnancy.

The CHP highlights the high effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing severe cases and deaths caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Vaccination provides significant protection against serious complications and even death following infection. The public is advised to stay updated on the latest recommendations regarding the use of COVID-19 vaccines in Hong Kong. High-risk priority groups, including pregnant women, are recommended to receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after the last dose or infection, regardless of the number of previous doses received. High-risk individuals who have not been vaccinated or infected with COVID-19 before should adopt additional hygiene measures to protect themselves. Studies have indicated that antibodies generated after vaccination in pregnant women can be passed to the fetus through the umbilical cord, underscoring the importance of pregnant women receiving COVID-19 vaccines at appropriate times for their own protection and that of their unborn child. As the antibodies acquired by infants from their mothers decrease over time, the CHP also advises parents to arrange COVID-19 vaccinations for their babies aged six months or older to reduce the risk of severe cases and fatalities.

The severe case of influenza A infection involves a 7-year-old boy with no significant medical history. He presented symptoms such as fever, chills, malaise, myalgia, runny nose, sore throat, and cough with sputum on December 2. Seeking medical attention, he visited a private doctor on 4th December and again on 8th December due to shortness of breath. He was subsequently referred to the AED of Tuen Mun Hospital and admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit for treatment. Laboratory testing confirmed the presence of influenza A (H3) virus in his nasopharyngeal swab, and he was clinically diagnosed with influenza A infection complicated by pneumonia. The boy remains in a serious condition and continues to receive medical care.