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Local influenza activity increased
     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (May 4) urged the public, particularly young children, the elderly and chronic disease patients, to observe strict hand, personal and environmental hygiene against influenza amid the increased activity of local seasonal influenza in the past two weeks.
     According to the latest surveillance data of the CHP, the positive percentage of seasonal influenza viruses among respiratory specimens received increased from 8.44 per cent to 10.08 per cent from the week of April 16 to that of April 23. While most detections were influenza A(H3) (5.65 per cent in the week of April 23), the percentage of influenza A(H1) detections had increased from 1.70 per cent in the week of April 16 to 3.19 per cent in that of April 23.
     In the same period, the number of institutional outbreaks of influenza-like illness (ILI) increased from one (affecting four persons) to four (21 persons). The average ILI consultation rate among sentinel private doctors rose from 31.6 to 49.9 cases per 1 000 consultations in the same period, while that of General Out-patient Clinics increased from 3.6 to 4.0.
     "Our data show that the local seasonal influenza activity has increased. Starting from tomorrow (May 5), we will collaborate with the Hospital Authority and private hospitals to reactivate the enhanced surveillance for severe seasonal influenza, i.e. influenza-associated admission to the Intensive Care Unit or death in adults aged 18 or above, to better monitor the severity of illness," a spokesman for the CHP said.
     In children aged under 18, routine surveillance of severe influenza-associated complications or deaths is ongoing.
     The CHP has issued letters to doctors, hospitals, institutions and schools to appeal for heightened vigilance.
     Schools should check the body temperature of all students every day when they arrive at school to identify those with fever. To prevent outbreaks, those with fever (oral temperature over 37.5 degrees Celsius or ear temperature over 38 degrees C), with or without respiratory symptoms, should not be allowed to attend school. Schools should advise them to seek medical advice and avoid school till two days after fever subsides.
     In addition, staff should check their temperature before work every day and those with fever or respiratory illnesses should refrain from work.
     "Schools should promptly report to the CHP in case of an increase in respiratory illnesses or absentees for immediate epidemiological investigations and outbreak control. We will issue letters to kindergartens and child care centres as well as primary and secondary schools on the above measure," the spokesman said.
     "We again remind the public, particularly children, the elderly and those with underlying illnesses, to get vaccinated to better protect themselves against influenza," the spokesman added.
     As of May 1, about 411 000 and 286 000 doses of seasonal influenza vaccines have been administered via the Government Vaccination Programme (free vaccination) and the Vaccination Subsidy Scheme (subsidised vaccination) respectively, increasing by 6 per cent and 47 per cent from the same period in the last season.
     The public should maintain good personal and environmental hygiene for protection against influenza and other respiratory illnesses: 
  • Receive seasonal influenza vaccination for personal protection;
  • Wash hands with liquid soap and water properly whenever possibly contaminated;
  • When hands are not visibly soiled, clean them with 70 to 80 per cent alcohol-based handrub as an effective alternative;
  • Cover the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, and wash hands thoroughly afterwards;
  • Dispose of soiled tissue paper properly in a lidded rubbish bin;
  • Put on a surgical mask when respiratory symptoms develop;
  • Maintain good indoor ventilation;
  • When influenza is prevalent, avoid going to crowded or poorly ventilated public places; high-risk individuals may consider putting on surgical masks in such places; and
  • Maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, take adequate rest, do not smoke and avoid overstress.
     The public may visit the CHP's influenza page and weekly Flu Express for more information.
Ends/Thursday, May 4, 2017
Issued at HKT 19:08
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