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CHP urges vigilance against communicable diseases in new school year
     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health will issue letters to kindergartens as well as primary and secondary schools today (August 25) to remind the management of schools to stay alert to common childhood communicable diseases which may lead to outbreaks when classes resume next Thursday (September 1).
     "Based on seasonal patterns and past surveillance data, we expect that sporadic institutional outbreaks of chickenpox, respiratory illnesses or hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) may occur in the new school year when students and staff gather on campus. Good personal, hand, food and environmental hygiene are essential," a spokesman for the CHP said.
A. Chickenpox
     Chickenpox is the most common notifiable communicable disease in Hong Kong and is highly communicable. The number of cases usually rises in October and peaks in December and January.
     A total of 258 institutional chickenpox outbreaks affecting 1 422 persons had been recorded in 2016 as of August 16, including 126 outbreaks (833 pupils) from kindergartens or child care centres and 111 outbreaks (520 pupils) from primary schools. On the whole, 4 745 chickenpox cases had been reported this year as of August 22. Over 80 per cent (3 856 cases) were children aged under 18. The median age was 7.

B. Hand, foot and mouth disease and enterovirus infection

     Although local HFMD activity has been on the decline in August after peaking in late June and early July this year, sporadic outbreaks may occur in schools and institutions where it can easily spread among young children with close contact. A smaller peak season may arrive in winter.

     The number of cases of enterovirus (EV) 71 infection and severe paediatric EV infections this year were less than that in the same period of last year. In 2016, three severe paediatric EV infections had been recorded as of August 22, compared to seven in the same period of last year. The three children were aged from 11 days to 5 years. Two had meningitis and one had EV infection of the central nervous system and cerebellar ataxia as complications. Two of them required intensive care during hospitalisation.

C. Influenza and respiratory illnesses

     Since the end of an extended winter influenza season in May 2016, the local influenza activity has remained low. Although influenza is usually self-limiting, it may cause serious illness even in healthy children. Parents are advised to consult family doctors for seasonal influenza vaccination for their children for personal protection before the winter season arrives.

     "If students or staff develop fever, respiratory symptoms, diarrhoea, vomiting or skin rash, schools should strongly advise them not to return to campus and to promptly seek medical advice. Management of schools should observe precautions on campus, such as avoiding sharing clothing or slippers, to prevent possible transmission of diseases," the spokesman added.

     Schools are reminded to follow the Guidelines on Prevention of Communicable Diseases on preventive and control measures as well as management of outbreaks, which should be reported to the CHP for prompt follow-up. Schools may refer to the CHP's pages on chickenpox, HFMD and EV71 infection and seasonal influenza for more information.
Ends/Thursday, August 25, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:23
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