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Surveillance enhanced amid influenza season
     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (May 17) announced enhanced surveillance as Hong Kong has entered the influenza season. The community should heighten vigilance while members of the public should maintain personal protection against influenza.

     "Our latest surveillance data show that the local seasonal influenza activity steadily increased from baseline level and may rise further in the coming weeks. This influenza season has arrived earlier than the traditional summer influenza seasons, which started between June and September in the past few years. We again urge the public, particularly children, the elderly and chronic disease patients, to observe strict personal, hand and environmental hygiene," a spokesman for the CHP said.

     The positive percentage of seasonal influenza viruses among respiratory specimens received by the CHP increased from 8.44 to 12.03 per cent from the week of April 16 to that of May 7. Most detections (57.9 per cent) were influenza A(H3), followed by influenza A(H1) (27.3 per cent).

     In the same period, the number of institutional outbreaks of influenza-like illness (ILI) increased from one (affecting four persons) to 17 (71 persons). As of yesterday (May 16), 14 (63 persons) had been recorded this week. In the past two weeks, most outbreaks (45.8 per cent) were reported by primary schools, followed by residential care homes for the elderly (20.8 per cent).

     Regarding adults, 25 cases of influenza-associated admission to the Intensive Care Unit or death (including 13 deaths) were recorded with the Hospital Authority and private hospitals during the enhanced surveillance from May 5 to yesterday.

     Regarding children, 10 cases of severe influenza-associated complication or death (one death) have been detected so far in 2017, with seven influenza A(H3N2), two influenza A(H1N1)pdm09, and one influenza B cases.

     The CHP will issue letters to doctors, hospitals, institutions and schools to appeal for heightened vigilance.

     In the influenza season, schools should continue to 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), 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 additional measure," the spokesman said.

     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/Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Issued at HKT 18:00
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