2/04/2013

Hong Kong entering winter influenza season (February 4 2013)

[Source: Centre for Health Protection, Hong Kong PRC SAR, full text: (LINK).]

Hong Kong entering winter influenza season

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (February 4) appealed to members of the public to stay vigilant against seasonal influenza as the latest surveillance data showed that there has been an increase in local influenza activity, signaling that Hong Kong is entering winter influenza season.

The number of influenza-like illness (ILI) outbreaks at institutions and schools increased from zero in the week ending January 5 to eight in the week ending February 2, affecting a total of 141 persons.

The weekly ILI consultation rates (per 1 000 consultations) among sentinel general outpatient clinics increased from 1.9 in the week ending January 5 to 4.9 in the week ending January 26. The corresponding rates among sentinel private doctors increased from 34.2 in the week ending January 5 to 43.6 in the week ending January 26. The weekly average rate for ILI syndrome group (per 1 000 coded cases) under the Accident & Emergency Departments Communicable Diseases Syndromic Surveillance also increased from 161.2 in the week ending January 5 to 182.9 in the week ending February 2.

Meanwhile, the number of influenza virus detections at the Public Health Laboratory Services Branch also increased from 48 in the week ending January 5 to 133 in the week ending February 2. The circulating influenza viruses detected are mainly influenza A (H1N1)2009 (54.9 per cent) and influenza A (H3N2) (42.1 per cent), followed by influenza B (3 per cent). So far, the viruses circulating this season remain well matched with the vaccine viruses for the 2012/13 season. Vaccination remains the best protection against influenza.

Since January 18, the CHP has collaborated with the Hospital Authority and private hospitals to enhance surveillance concerning patients with influenza infection who required intensive care admission or died during the winter influenza season. At the same time, the CHP will continue to closely monitor cases with severe paediatric influenza-associated complications or deaths. Since the enhancement of surveillance on January 18, there have been five reports (including two deaths) of patients with influenza infection who required intensive care admission or died and two cases (no death) of severe paediatric influenza-associated complications or deaths (as of noon, February 4).

The CHP has sent letters to doctors and schools alerting them of the latest local influenza activity.

"We will closely monitor overseas and local influenza activities as Hong Kong is entering the winter influenza season," the spokesman said.

Given influenza vaccines are safe and effective and that serious influenza infection can occur even in healthy individuals, seasonal influenza vaccination is suitable for personal protection against clinical influenza for all persons except those with known contraindications. Besides, as influenza can cause serious complications especially among vulnerable groups such as the elderly, young children, persons with chronic medical conditions and even healthy persons, the spokesman strongly advised target groups of influenza vaccination as well as all members of the public to take the last opportunity to receive vaccinations as the protective immune response takes about two to four weeks to develop after vaccination.

As of February 3, over 433 000 doses of seasonal influenza vaccine had been administered to target groups under the Government Vaccination Programme and Vaccination Subsidy Schemes 2012-13.

Members of the public are reminded to take heed of the following preventive measures against influenza and other respiratory illnesses:

  • Build up good body immunity by having a proper diet, regular exercises and adequate rest, reducing stress and avoiding smoking;
  • Maintain good personal and environmental hygiene;
  • Wash hands after sneezing, coughing or cleaning the nose;
  • Maintain good ventilation;
  • Avoid visiting crowded places with poor ventilation; and
  • Wear surgical masks and seek medical advice promptly if symptoms of respiratory tract infections or fever develop.

For more information on influenza and its prevention, please visit the CHP website at: www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/14843.html.

Ends/Monday, February 4, 2013
Issued at HKT 18:35
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