The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said on Wednesday that local seasonal influenza activity increased to a very high level in the past week, coupled with ongoing severe influenza cases, high consultation rates in sentinel clinics/doctors and a large number of institutional outbreaks.
“The latest surveillance data of the summer influenza season showed that the rate of influenza-like illness in accident and emergency departments and the influenza-associated admission rate in public hospitals remain high.
“As local influenza is expected to remain very active in the coming weeks, we strongly urge the public, particularly children, the elderly and chronic disease patients, to adopt strict personal, hand and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel in the summer,” said a spokesman for the CHP.
The positive percentage of seasonal influenza viruses among respiratory specimens received by the CHP increased from 35.87 to 40.66 percent from the week of July 2 to that of July 9. The vast majority (92 percent) was influenza A(H3).
“Epidemiological experience shows that the predominance of H3 virus has affected elderly persons most, many of whom have underlying illnesses, as observed from more outbreaks reported by elderly homes,” the spokesman said.
As of Tuesday, 16 institutional outbreaks of flu-like illness had been recorded since this week. In the past four weeks, about half of the outbreaks were reported by residential care homes for the elderly, followed by about one-fifth from kindergartens and child care centers.
Regarding severe influenza cases in adults, 289 cases of flu-associated admission to the intensive care unit or death (including 199 deaths) were recorded with the Hospital Authority and private hospitals during enhanced surveillance from May 5 to this Tuesday. Most (249 cases) were H3.
In children, 23 cases of severe flu-associated complications or deaths (four deaths) have been detected so far in 2017, with 16 H3, six H1, and one influenza B cases.
“Hong Kong has entered the summer influenza season since mid-May. The public should wash or clean hands frequently, especially before touching the mouth, nose or eyes, or after touching public installations such as handrails or door knobs. Wear a mask when respiratory symptoms develop, especially when going to crowded places or attending gatherings. High-risk persons may wear masks against infections,” the spokesman said.
“Young children aged six months or above yet to receive seasonal influenza vaccination of the current season may get vaccinated as soon as possible for better personal protection,” the spokesman added.
In addition, influenza activities in neighbouring areas remained high with H3 virus predominating so far. Influenza activities in Guangdong and Macau are rising steadily. In the southern hemisphere, influenza activity in Australia and New Zealand is rising.
The public should maintain good personal and environmental hygiene for protection against influenza and other respiratory illnesses.
Here are a few tips from the CHP:
• Receive seasonal influenza vaccination for personal protection;
• Wash hands with liquid soap and water properly whenever possibly contaminated;
• When hands are not visibly soiled, clean them with 70 to 80 per cent alcohol-based handrub as an effective alternative;
• Cover the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, and wash hands thoroughly afterwards;
• Dispose of soiled tissue paper properly in a lidded rubbish bin;
• Put on a surgical mask when respiratory symptoms develop;
• Maintain good indoor ventilation;
• When influenza is prevalent, avoid going to crowded or poorly ventilated public places; high-risk individuals may consider putting on surgical masks in such places; and
• Maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, take adequate rest, do not smoke and avoid overstress.
The CHP has prepared easy-to-read infographics for the public on necessary health precautions against influenza. The public may visit the CHP’s influenza page and weekly Flu Express for more information.
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