Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP) has launched an investigation into a fatal malaria case after the city recorded 30 imported cases since July.

A 52 year old, who died while completing his hotel quarantine, was among 30 men aged between 27 and 57 who were found to have malaria after arriving in the city from African countries between July 1 and August 4. Among the group, 21 people came from Guinea, the CHP said in statement in a published on Thursday night.

Hong Kong Airport Covid-19
File photo: GovHK.

The remaining 29 were sent to public hospitals, with four patients in a serious condition and 15 in a stable condition “including four in Intensive Care Unit,” according to the CHP. Ten people have been discharged.

Higher than average

One of the city’s leading microbiologists, Ho Pak-leung of the University of Hong Kong, said on RTHK on Friday morning that the 30 cases were considered “a lot.” Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the city saw an average of 20 to 30 case per year, he said.

“These 30 cases have something in common, they all involved employees from the same company,” said Ho.

The microbiologist said that five types of malaria were transmissible to humans, and that the disease was transmitted through mosquito bites.

hong kong mosquitos
Two types of Anopheline mosquitos found in Hong Kong, Anopheles jeyporiensis (left) and Anopheles minimus (right). Photo: GovHK.

Ho said that the city “cannot pretend that it was nothing,” and that it would be difficult for the government to trace the transmission if those infected were bitten by mosquitos in Hong Kong.

‘Extremely low’ local transmission risk

Malaria is transmitted by infected female Anopheline mosquitos, the CHP said. The city had not found the two types of Anopheline mosquito – Anopheles minimus and Anopheles jeyporiensis – in urban areas “in recent years,” according to information from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

“As such, the [Department of Health] opined that the risk of local transmission of malaria is extremely low,” the Wednesday statement read.

Hong Kong recorded one malaria case in May and five cases in June this year. The city saw a total of four cases last year.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.