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Hong Kong enters influenza peak season

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (January 17) called on the public to maintain vigilance against seasonal influenza as latest surveillance data showed that Hong Kong has entered the winter influenza peak season.

     The Public Health Laboratory Centre (PHLC) of the CHP has detected increases in the number of influenza isolations recently. A total of 149 influenza detections were recorded last week (ending January 15, 2011) compared with 26, 47 and 77 in the weeks ending December 25, 2010, January 1 and January 8, 2011 respectively. The number of influenza-like illness outbreaks occurring in institutions and schools also increased from three in the week ending January 8 to 17 in the week ending January 15.

     The majority (76%) of influenza viruses isolated in the recent two weeks were influenza A (H1N1) 2009 (i.e. human swine influenza), followed by influenza A (H3N2) (12%) and influenza B (12%).

     The number of other respiratory viral infections detected by PHLC, including Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), parainfluenza virus and adenovirus, have also increased.

     The weekly number of RSV detected in PHLC ranged from 44 to 77 in the past eight weeks (November 21, 2010 - January 15, 2011), compared with a range of 21 to 46 in the previous eight-week period (September 26 íV November 20, 2010). The number of parainfluenza viruses detected in PHLC has increased from 183 in the previous four-week period between November 21 and December 18, 2010 to 228 in the recent four-week period between December 19, 2010 and January 15, 2011. The corresponding number for adenovirus has increased from 319 to 366.

     The CHP also noted an increasing trend in influenza activities in some countries / areas in Europe and North America, indicating that the winter influenza season has already started. Several areas in Asia, including Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Japan, have reported slight increases in respiratory disease activity in recent weeks.

     "We will continue to closely monitor the overseas and local situation of influenza activity as Hong Kong enters the winter peak season," a CHP spokesman said.  He strongly advised target groups for influenza vaccination to take the last opportunity to receive jabs as the protective immune response takes about two to four weeks to develop after vaccination.

     The CHP has sent letters to doctors and schools / institutions to alert them of the influenza situation and remind them to keep abreast of latest developments.

     The spokesman said, "Influenza can cause medical complications especially among vulnerable people such as the elderly, young children and those with chronic medical conditions. Based on observation during previous influenza seasons, a few deaths related to influenza may occur every week."

     The public are reminded to take the following measures to prevent respiratory tract infection:

* Build up good body immunity by having a proper diet, regular exercise 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 indoor ventilation; and
* Avoid visiting crowded places with poor ventilation.

     Members of the public, particularly young children, elderly people and those with chronic diseases, should wear face masks and consult their doctors promptly if they develop influenza-like symptoms.

Ends/Monday, January 17, 2011
Issued at HKT 18:56


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