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CHP alerts public to increasing avian and seasonal influenza activity around Lunar New Year
     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (January 22) drew the public's attention to increasing activity of avian and seasonal influenza around the Lunar New Year.

     "We would like to remind travellers during the Lunar New Year holidays to avoid poultry contact and not to visit poultry markets to guard against avian influenza. Those visiting the Middle East should avoid camel contact and should not visit farms or barns to prevent Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Locally, for better personal protection before the winter influenza season, the public, in particular young children and elderly persons, are urged to receive seasonal influenza vaccination early," a spokesman for the CHP said.

     "During the festive season, wash hands frequently and eat thoroughly cooked and healthy food. Strict personal, hand, food and environmental hygiene remain keys to safeguarding infectious diseases," the spokesman said.

A. Avian influenza A(H7N9)

     The activity of avian influenza A(H7N9) has been increasing markedly since the end of 2016. The Mainland health authorities reported six and 106 human H7N9 cases in November and December 2016 respectively. In the first half of January 2017, 111 cases were detected. The situation this winter has been progressing much faster than the situation last winter.

     In the neighbouring Guangdong, 11 human H7N9 cases, with two deaths, were recorded in the first half of this month. The H7-positive percentage of environmental samples from live poultry markets was substantial at 9.42 per cent in the first week of this month. In Hong Kong and Macau, four cases (imported) and two cases were recorded respectively.

     "As there is a likely risk that environments with live poultry in the Mainland are contaminated with avian influenza viruses, the public, especially poultry traders and travellers, should be on full alert," the spokesman said.

     "Travellers to the Mainland or other affected areas must avoid visiting wet markets, poultry markets or farms. Stay alert to possible backyard poultry when visiting relatives and friends. Avoid buying live or freshly slaughtered poultry and avoid touching poultry/birds or their droppings," the spokesman added.

     More information and the risk assessment have been reported in the CHP's latest bi-weekly Communicable Diseases Watch.

B. Seasonal influenza

     Among respiratory specimens received by the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Services Branch, the positive percentage of seasonal influenza viruses increased from 4.38 per cent in the week ending December 24, 2016, to 8.13 per cent in that ending January 14, 2017. Most detections were influenza A(H3N2).

     Seven institutional outbreaks of influenza-like illness affecting 26 persons were recorded in the week ending January 14, 2017, compared to two outbreaks involving seven persons in the preceding week. As of January 19, six outbreaks affecting 25 persons were recorded last week.

     "The surveillance data in the past few weeks show that the local influenza activity is increasing and the winter influenza season is expected to arrive very soon," the spokesman said.

     "We urge the public, particularly children, the elderly and those with underlying illnesses, to get vaccinated as early as possible to prevent seasonal influenza as it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop in the body after vaccination," the spokesman added.

     As of January 15, about 360 000 and 258 000 doses of seasonal influenza vaccines had been administered via the Government Vaccination Programme (free vaccination) and the Vaccination Subsidy Scheme (subsidised vaccination) respectively, increasing 8.6 and 53.6 per cent from the same period in the last season.

     The latest surveillance data have been reported in the CHP's weekly Flu Express.
Ends/Sunday, January 22, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:00
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