- HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong authorities said on Thursday that
- medical test might have infected 111
- patients with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
(CJD), the human equivalent of
- "mad cow" disease, and that
seven of the patients
- had since died.
- "According to our information, seven
patients have already died,"
- Hospital Authority deputy director Doctor
- told a hastily arranged news conference.
- But another deputy director of the authority,
Doctor Ko Wing-man, said
- it was not yet clear if CJD had killed
- He said it would have been "almost
impossible" for CJD to have caused
- the deaths because the incubation period
- disease, which destroys brain tissue,
lasts a number of years.
- "We are very confident that it is
almost impossible for them to have
- died of the disease," Ko said. However,
- authorities had yet to identify the causes
of the deaths.
- Ko said two lots of chemicals suspected
of being contaminated with a
- protein that could cause CJD, known as
- "causative agent," had been
used on 111 patients in six public
- hospitals in Hong Kong from July to December
- for the management of certain heart and
- He said the supplier of the chemicals,
known as test reagents, was a
- British-based company which would be
- A test reagent is a radioactive chemical
injected into a patient to
- help diagnose certain diseases.
- "The Hospital Authority has decided
to contact and inform the patients
- involved for follow-up assessments and
- counseling," Ko said. The Authority
is a government-funded body that
- runs Hong Kong's public hospitals.
- Ko said contamination of the test reagents
was suspected after one of
- the donors of a pool of albumin, a protein,
- make the test reagents died of CJD in
- "The company or the authorities
in the UK came to know about the
- problem only after one of the donors
of the pool of
- albumin which was used to manufacture
the test reagent died," Ko said.
- "And he died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob
- The patient's albumin might have contaminated
the test reagents with
- the CJD causative agent, although this
could not be
- confirmed, he said. "There is no
way to test whether there is any
- causative agent in the test reagent."
- The manufacturer had already recalled
the affected test reagents from
- the hospital, he said.
- Ko stressed CJD was a very rare disease
that occurred in less than one
- person per million each year.
- He added that the chance of infection
was "very remote and extremely
- low" for the Hong Kong patients
- injected with the test reagent in their
- "The test procedure involves the
injection of a small volume of test
- reagent, which contains a very minute
portion of the
- pool of albumin suspected to be contaminated
by the causative agent of
- CJD," Ko said.
- "The risk of contracting the disease
through administration of test
- reagents containing contaminated albumin
- remote and there is so far no confirmed
case of transmission through
- blood transfusion or use of blood products,"
- But he acknowledged there was not yet
any proven test to predict if
- the patients who were exposed to the
- contract the disease eventually.
- "There is no established test to
predict whether a person will develop
- CJD and there is no known treatment,"
- "The patients are advised not to
donate blood or organs."
- He said the incubation period for CJD
could be as long as 20 years.
- "Mad cow" disease, whose medical
name is bovine spongiform
- encephalopathy (BSE), plunged Britain's
- into chaos two years ago and prompted
a global export ban on the meat
- and mass slaughter of British cows.
- The European Union voted last week to
support a proposal allowing a
- partial resumption of exports from Northern
- The world-wide ban was imposed on Britain
by the EU in March 1996
- after the British government admitted
- link between BSE and its deadly human
- Hong Kong has already endured one recent
health scare involving
- livestock as more than 1 million poultry
were killed late
- last month to control an outbreak of
avian flu blamed for several
- human deaths.
- A string of medical blunders in the former
British colony last year
- sparked an uproar and eroded confidence
in the health
- and hygiene standards of one of the world's
- In one case, a nurse almost killed a
patient by transfusing milk into
- his veins instead of blood. In another
- removed part of a young woman's reproductive
organs, thinking it was
- her appendix.
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