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Update on impending flu season

     The Centre of Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health has provided an update on overseas and local influenza activity in the latest issue of its online publication, Communicable Diseases Watch, released today (December 30).

     It was noted that recently there have been increases in influenza activity in some countries/areas in Europe and North America.

     In the United Kingdom (UK), the winter influenza season is under way. Both community and hospital data showed a steady upward trend in seasonal influenza activity with reports of outbreaks and severe cases.  From the week ending September 12 until December 22, 2010, a total of 27 fatal cases were verified by the UK's Health Protection Agency as related to influenza infection, mostly due to influenza A (H1N1) 2009 (i.e., human swine influenza) and influenza B. The majority of death cases did not receive the influenza vaccine.

     In Europe, although most of the reporting countries experienced influenza activity of low intensity, about two-thirds of the countries reported increasing trends, indicating that the winter influenza season has started in Europe. Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 and influenza B were the predominant circulating viruses in Europe, including the UK.

     The circulating influenza A (H1N1) 2009 virus is virologically and epidemiologically similar to that seen during the pandemic.  So far, the circulating viruses detected have been similar to the current vaccine viruses.

     In the United States, while influenza-like illness consultation rates remained relatively low nationally, influenza activity has been increasing with influenza A (H3N2) and influenza B viruses predominating.

     In Canada, overall influenza activity continued to increase with influenza A (H3N2) predominating.

     Locally, while the latest influenza activity remains at baseline level, it is expected to pick up some time during the next few weeks as the winter influenza season in Hong Kong usually occurs between January and March.

     As of December 26, more than 293,000 doses of seasonal influenza vaccines have been administered to specified target groups under the Government's Influenza Vaccination Programme and Subsidy Schemes. The number is about 30% lower than comparable periods in previous years.

     A spokesman for CHP strongly advised target groups for influenza vaccination to make use of the last opportunity to receive jabs before the arrival of the winter influenza peak as a protective immune response takes about two to four weeks to develop after vaccination.

     The latest issue of Communicable Diseases Watch can be accessed at

Ends/Thursday, December 30, 2010
Issued at HKT 15:58


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