The Hong Kong Department of Health has teamed with the Chinese University of Hong Kong to beef up its capacity to identify patients infected with the novel coronavirus.
As concerns grow over imported cases, the government has been using stool test kits, provided by the university for free, since Sunday to test children with no coronavirus symptoms arriving at Hong Kong International Airport, according to a CUHK statement issued on Monday.
The university will process the stool specimens in its laboratories and provide the results to the government the next day for it to follow up on the cases.
It is difficult to collect deep throat saliva from babies and infants, according Paul Chan Kay-sheung, chairman of the CUHK Department of Microbiology. And stool tests offer more-accurate test results for children and infants, he added.
According to Chan, tests based on respiratory samples could carry a false negative rate of over 40 percent if they are not collected properly. That group of people can become silent carriers and pass on the disease in the community, he said.
Stool specimens are more convenient to collect in the pediatric population, which makes stool tests a better option for COVID-19 screening in babies and children, Chan explained.
A previous study of CUHK’s Faculty of Medicine found that the coronavirus was detectable in stool samples of all patients. Some 20 to 30 percent of patients tested positive for the virus in their stool samples even though it was no longer found in their respiratory tract samples.
During the past week, Hong Kong has recorded more than 300 new cases of the coronavirus, taking the tally to 682 by Monday. A considerable amount of these cases involved people initially showing no symptoms but were later confirmed to be infected.
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