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Influenza activity reaches highest level this year

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (May 29) called on the public to maintain vigilance against seasonal influenza as the latest surveillance data shows that local influenza activity is at its highest level this year.

     The Public Health Laboratory Centre (PHLC) of the CHP has detected a further increase in the number of influenza detections. The weekly number of influenza detections at the PHLC increased from 329 in the week ending May 5 to 1,113 in the week ending May 26, the highest number recorded so far this year. The number of institutional influenza-like illness (ILI) outbreaks increased from 16 to 64 during the same period. The current circulating influenza virus strain is influenza A(H3N2) virus, accounting for more than 95 per cent of all the influenza detections in the past four weeks.

     From January 13 to noon on May 28, there were 214 cases (including 128 deaths), with ICU admissions or deaths with laboratory-confirmed influenza recorded by the enhanced surveillance system set up by CHP with the Hospital Authority and private hospitals to monitor the severity of influenza activity during influenza peak seasons. Fourteen paediatric cases (including two deaths) with severe influenza-associated complications or deaths have been recorded this year (as of May 28).  Compared with the winter flu season in the first quarter of 2011, the 2012 flu season has caused a higher proportion of serious/fatal cases among elderly people aged 65 years or above, and a lower proportion of serious/fatal cases among children aged below 5 years.

     A spokesperson for the CHP said, "Influenza activity is expected to stay high for some weeks to come, and we will continue to see some serious/fatal cases among all age groups, especially the elderly."

     He added that the Government Vaccination Programme (GVP) 2011/12 was launched on November 1, 2011 and seasonal influenza vaccination will complete on May 31, 2012 with the expiry of vaccines. As at May 27, more than 233,000 doses of seasonal influenza vaccines had been administered to specified target groups under the programme and this figure is about 2.6 per cent higher than that for the same period last year.

     Regarding influenza vaccines subsidised by the Government under the Childhood Influenza Vaccination Subsidy Scheme (CIVSS) and Elderly Vaccination Subsidy Scheme (EVSS), as at May 27 more than 174,000 doses of seasonal influenza vaccines had been administered to eligible groups.

     Influenza can cause medical complications, especially among vulnerable people such as the elderly, young children and those with chronic medical conditions. The CHP will continue to closely monitor the local as well as the global situation of influenza activity.

     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 persons with weakened immunity, should wear face masks and consult their doctors promptly if they develop influenza-like symptoms.

Ends/Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Issued at HKT 17:35


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