A man in Hong Kong has been diagnosed with a form of hepatitis E that was previously found only in rats. It is believed that he may have become infected after consuming food contaminated with rat droppings containing the virus.
Hong Kong has been put on notice to improve public health and get rid of rodents. In a recent press conference, Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist at Hong Kong University, said that the discovery was a ‘wake-up call’ to improve environmental hygiene and prevent rats from breeding. “We don’t know if in future there will be a serious outbreak of the rat Hepatitis E virus in Hong Kong,” he said. “We need to closely monitor this issue.”
Although Dr Siddharth Sridhar, a clinical assistant professor from HKU’s department of microbiology involved in studying the patient, said that there is no evidence of an imminent major epidemic following the discovery of rat Hepatitis E in the patient, researchers take any new incidence of infections jumping from animals to humans very seriously. “These kinds of unusual infections, rare infections, first instances – even one case is enough to make public health authorities and researchers very alert about the implications,” he said.