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CHP appeals for heightened vigilance against sharp increase in influenza activity
     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (July 17) issued a letter to doctors, hospitals, institutions and schools to update them on the latest situation and remind the community of the need for heightened vigilance amid a marked increase in activity of seasonal influenza in Hong Kong recently.

     "Hong Kong entered the summer influenza season in mid May. Our latest surveillance data show that the local seasonal influenza activity has been increasing markedly in the past two weeks and has reached a very high level. We foresee that the influenza activity will remain at a high level in the coming weeks. We strongly urge the public, particularly children, the elderly and chronic disease patients, to observe strict personal, hand and environmental hygiene for better personal protection against the seasonal influenza," a spokesman for the CHP said.

     The positive percentage of seasonal influenza viruses among respiratory specimens received by the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Services Branch increased from 31.48 to 35.66 per cent from the week of June 25 to that of July 2 (20.76 per cent in the week of June 18). Most detections between June 18 and July 8 were influenza A(H3N2) (91.3 per cent), followed by influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 (5 per cent).

     Due to the recent predominance of influenza A (H3N2), elderly people aged 65 years or above were particularly affected. Most of them also have underlying illnesses.

     The number of institutional outbreaks of influenza-like illness (ILI) increased from 30 (affecting 210 persons) in the week of June 18 to a range of 41 and 44 (affecting 221 to 236 persons) per week in the past three weeks. In the past three weeks, most outbreaks (52 per cent) were reported by residential care homes for the elderly, followed by child care centres/ kindergartens (22.8 per cent).

     Regarding severe cases, 270 adult cases of influenza-associated admission to the Intensive Care Unit or death (including 183 deaths) were recorded with the Hospital Authority and private hospitals during the enhanced surveillance from May 5 to yesterday. Separately, 13 paediatric cases of severe influenza-associated complication or death (including three deaths) were recorded in the same period, with eight influenza A(H3N2) and five influenza A(H1N1)pdm09.

     During the influenza season, schools, in particular kindergartens and child care centres, 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 until two days after the fever subsides.

     In addition, staff should check their temperature before work every day and those with fever or respiratory illnesses should refrain from work.

     "As the predominating influenza A (H3N2) affects the elderly most, residential care homes for the elderly should promptly report to the CHP in case of an increase in respiratory illnesses or absentees for immediate epidemiological investigations and outbreak control," the spokesman said.

     "Apart from adopting personal, hand and environmental hygiene practices against respiratory illnesses, persons aged six months or above who have not received the 2016/17 influenza vaccine may get the vaccination as soon as possible for personal protection," the spokesman added.

     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/Monday, July 17, 2017
Issued at HKT 19:02
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