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Anthrax kills Hong Kong boy

Dr. Tse Lai-yin, consultant for the Department of Health, announced the boy's death.
Dr. Tse Lai-yin, consultant for the Department of Health, announced the boy's death.

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HONG KONG, China (Reuters) -- Anthrax killed a two-year-old boy in Hong Kong last month but the government has ruled out a terror attack, a health department official said.

"The boy probably ate some contaminated food," the official told Reuters on Tuesday.

"Such an infection is extremely rare and we are still trying to find out the cause."

The boy fell ill with a stomach ache, vomiting and fever, and was admitted to hospital late May where he died soon after.

The official said such an infection last occurred in Hong Kong in 1994, when anthrax killed a 13-year-old boy through suspected food contamination.

Anthrax exists in the form of spores in soil for a long time and is usually associated with diseases in cattle and sheep.

However, microbiologist John Tam told Reuters that it is rare for humans to get infected with anthrax in a natural environment.

Anthrax, which manifests itself in skin form and a sometimes fatal lung infection, can be cured if caught early with antibiotics.

Anthrax powder was used in a series of letter attacks in the United States in 2001 that killed five people and it was developed into biological weapons by many governments, including the United States, Japan and the former Soviet Union.

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