One Dead, Two Sick With 'rat' Hepatitis

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2019-05-14 HKT 21:45

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  • Scientists did not realise until last year that hepatitis E could be passed from rats to humans. Image: Shutterstock

    Scientists did not realise until last year that hepatitis E could be passed from rats to humans. Image: Shutterstock

Health officials are investigating after three elderly men contracted a strain of hepatitis E usually associated with rats, health officials announced on Tuesday.

One of them, a 74-year-old man from Tuen Mun, died. The other two men, aged 67 and 81, are said to be in a stable condition. None of them reported having contact with rodents.

The strain of hepatitis E they fell ill was not thought to affect humans – until two people in the SAR contracted it last year.

All three had underlying liver conditions, the Centre for Health Protection said.

"Based on the available epidemiological information, the source and the route of infection could not be determined. The investigation is ongoing," a spokesman for the centre said.

In September, officials revealed that a 56-year-old liver transplant patient had been infected with a rat strain of hepatitis E. He lived near a refuse room on Choi Wan Estate that was infested with the rodents.

Medical experts believe this was the first case of its kind in the world as it was previously thought that hepatitis E could not jump from rats to humans.

In November, it was revealed that a Kwong Wah Hospital patient in her 70s, who had been diagnosed with hepatitis in May, was infected with the same rat-based strain of the disease.