Public urged to guard against high influenza activity and maintain social distance among children to reduce infection risk


Hong Kong (HKSAR) -      The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) today (February 7) urged the public to continue their vigilance against seasonal influenza and adopt strict personal hygiene as the latest surveillance data showed that the local seasonal influenza activity has increased to a high level in the past few weeks. In particular, social distancing is an effective precautionary measure to reduce the chance of infection for children and others.
 
     Hosting a press conference to report on the latest situation of the winter influenza season in Hong Kong today, the Controller of the CHP, Dr Wong Ka-hing, said, "Although there was no further increase in a number of surveillance parameters in the past week, we anticipate that the seasonal influenza activity will remain at a high level for some time.
 
     "The predominating virus of this winter influenza season has been influenza B. Epidemiological experience shows that children are relatively more affected in seasons with predominance of influenza B virus, and this can be reflected by the large number of outbreaks of influenza-like illness (ILI) in schools in this season."
 
     The CHP recorded a sharp increase in institutional ILI outbreaks in the past three weeks.

As at February 6, 398 ILI outbreaks have been recorded in the current season, exceeding the number recorded in the same duration in past influenza seasons. Majority of the outbreaks occurred in primary schools (42.5 per cent) and kindergartens/child care centres (41.7 per cent), followed by secondary schools (5.8 per cent) and residential care homes for the elderly (3.8 per cent).
 
     Dr Wong said, "The Government this morning held a high-level inter-departmental meeting to review the latest situation of the local influenza activity. Taking into consideration the opinions and recommendations from experts, as well as concerns from parents, the Government has decided to adopt a precautionary approach through social distancing to reduce the transmission of influenza in school settings and that all primary schools, kindergartens and child care centres will take an early break for the Lunar New Year holiday from tomorrow (February 8)."
 
     Meanwhile, the latest surveillance data showed that the daily number of admission with laboratory confirmation of influenza in public hospitals peaked at 272 per day in the week from January 22 to 28 and steadily decreased to 232 per day in the week from January 31 to February 6.

The weekly average rate of the ILI syndrome group in accident and emergency departments has slightly dropped from 247.0 (per 1,000 coded cases) in the previous week to 238.4 last week. The influenza-associated hospitalisation rates reached the peak in the previous week (January 21 to 27). The rate in that week was highest among children aged under 5 (8.65 per 10 000 population), followed by children aged 6 to 11 (3.73 per 10 000 population) and elderly people aged 65 or above (2.75 per 10 000 population).

Of note, the influenza-associated hospitalisation rate among children aged 6 to 11 has exceeded the peak levels recorded in the past five years.
 
     Dr Wong said, "Regarding the severe influenza cases, our data indicated that they mainly affected the elderly. A total of 203 adult cases (115 deaths) of intensive care unit admission/death with laboratory confirmation of influenza were recorded with the Hospital Authority and private hospitals from January 7 to February 6. About 67 per cent of the severe adult cases involved elderly persons aged 65 or above while 74 per cent of the patients had pre-existing chronic diseases."
 
     As for children (aged under 18), 12 severe cases (two deaths) were reported as at noon today.

Among the cases, 11 (92 per cent) did not receive seasonal influenza vaccination for the current season.
 
     Dr Wong reminded children, the elderly and those with underlying illnesses to get vaccinated against seasonal influenza for better personal protection. People should promptly seek medical advice if influenza-like symptoms develop so that appropriate treatment can be initiated as early as possible to prevent potential complications.
 
     After the Lunar New Year holiday, children with fever and respiratory symptoms should not attend schools till 48 hours after fever has subsided. Parents and carers are reminded to render assistance in prevention, care and control for vulnerable people.
 
     Besides receiving seasonal influenza vaccination, the public should maintain good personal and environmental hygiene against influenza and other respiratory illnesses:
 
  • 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;
  • Wash or clean hands frequently, especially before touching the mouth, nose or eyes, or after touching public installations such as handrails or door knobs;
  • 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 when staying in such places; and
  • Maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, take adequate rest, do not smoke and avoid overstress.
 
     For more information, please visit the CHP's http://www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/14843.html" target="_blank">influenza page and weekly http://www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/2108.html" target="_blank">Flu Express.



Published on: 2018-02-07

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