- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 22, 2011

HONG KONG (AP) - Doctors are investigating the death of a 5-year-old boy believed to be the second person in Hong Kong to die from a mutated form of scarlet fever with higher resistence to antibiotics, authorities said Wednesday.

The boy was taken to hospital with a fever and died Tuesday. Medical authorities were checking whether he had the same strain of scarlet fever as a 7-year-old girl who died of the disease in May.

She became the first patient to die of the illness in at least 10 years, and researchers at Hong Kong University said she had a genetically mutated strain that is much more resistant to antibiotics.

The new strain strain has about 60 percent resistance to antibiotics used to treat it, compared with 10 to 30 percent in previous strains, Professor Kwok-yung Yuen said Wednesday. Certain characteristics of the new strain likely make it more easily transmitted, he said.

Hong Kong has had 466 reported cases of scarlet fever so far this year, about double the annual total.

Scarlet fever is a streptococcal disease characterized by a bright red skin rash, fever and sore throat. It’s most common in children under 10.

Infectious diseases are a particular concern for Hong Kong, where memories are still fresh of the 2003 SARS outbreak that killed 299 people in the city and nearly 500 more in other countries.

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