Health authorities probe case of rat hepatitis E after 55-year-old Hongkonger contracts virus

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Hong Kong health authorities are investigating a case of rat hepatitis E virus involving a 55-year-old man who was infected by an undetermined source.

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) revealed on Friday (May 13) that the patient, who lives in Tai Po, was already receiving treatment at Prince of Wales Hospital for underlying illnesses when medical workers discovered he had deranged liver function.

The man’s blood sample tested positive for the virus strain but he remains in stable condition. He did not have contact with rats or other rodents and had no recent travel history.

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

Health authorities will also carry out rodent control measures and a survey in the area.

The exact mode of transmission of rat hepatitis E virus to humans remains unknown, with the CHP saying possible routes included consumption of food that had come into contact with rodents or their excreta, as well as exposure to contaminated environments.

The hepatitis E virus that usually causes human infection is transmitted mainly through the faecal-oral route.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.