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Health experts look at rodent as possible source of Covid variant

14 June 2021

By The SUN

The 17-year-old girl bought a chinchilla during the incubation period

Hong Kong health experts are looking into the possibility that a mutant virus with unknown source that infected a family of three in Tin Shui Wai may have come from a pet chinchilla that the index patient had bought from a pet store in Mong Kok.

This was revealed today, Jun 14, by top microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung who also said that the 17-year-old girl who infected her mother and older sister had bought the rodent and played with it at home after taking her mask off. However, the chinchilla tested negative for the virus.

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The experts also caught some rats at an industrial estate in Tuen Mun where the tutorial school which the girl had attended and will also test them for the virus. However, the rat infestation in the place was said not to be severe.

Yuen said the source of the infection is still a mystery, but believes human-to-human transmission was most likely.


About 140 people identified as the family’s close contacts had been put under quarantine, but none tested positive for the virus. All 850 other residents of their residential building also tested negative.

Yuen said antibody tests will be carried out on the close contacts on the 21st day after the infection was detected to check if they had been previously infected. If anyone of them tests positive, then the source might be traced.

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Another angle being looked into is the possibility of material transmission from the food that the girl had taken from their refrigerator at home. In line with this, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department will conduct inspections of food supplies in Tin Shui Wai.

The experts are baffled because they could not find a variant identical to the one found on the index patient from about 100,000 sets of coronavirus genomes identified from all over the world.

Meanwhile, only one confirmed case of Covid-19 was reported today, involving a 40-year-old  woman who flew into the city from Indonesia, and started showing symptoms on Jun 13.

She became Hong Kong’s 11,878th confirmed case.

A total of 40 cases have been reported in the past 14 days, including the three local cases found with the mutant virus.
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