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Vigilance against childhood and common infectious diseases urged in Christmas and New Year holidays
     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (December 20) reminded the public to practise strict hand, personal, food and environmental hygiene to guard against some childhood and common infectious diseases in the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays.

A. Scarlet fever and chickenpox

     The latest surveillance data showed that the activity of scarlet fever (SF) has been increasing since November and is currently at a high level. The weekly number of SF cases ranged from 75 to 114 in the past three weeks from November 26 to December 16. A total of 2 155 SF cases were reported in 2017 as of December 16, compared to 1 372 in the same period in 2016.

     "While most cases this year presented with mild illnesses and epidemiological features were similar, we expect that SF activity will remain at a high level in the next few months. If children develop fever, sore throat, rash or a distinctive strawberry-like tongue, parents should bring them for medical attention for prompt diagnosis and management," a spokesman for the CHP said.

     In addition, the number of chickenpox cases increased from 549 in October to 894 in November 2017. On the whole, 9 026 chickenpox cases were reported in 2017 as of December 15, compared to 8 304 in the same period in 2016. The activity of chickenpox is expected to remain at a high level in the next few weeks.

     "Although chickenpox is usually mild and self-limiting, persons with lower immunity are more prone to develop complications including SF, pneumonia and encephalitis. Parents should take extra care of their children," the spokesman added.

B. Acute gastroenteritis and food poisoning

     Outbreaks of acute gastroenteritis (AGE) usually occur more frequently in winter. In the festive season, food and environmental hygiene are the keys to preventing AGE and food poisoning while consuming party food or hot pot in gatherings.

     "The public should consume thoroughly washed and cooked food. For shellfish, the shells should be well scrubbed and the internal organ removed before consumption. Never use raw eggs as dipping sauce. Use different chopsticks to handle raw and cooked food to avoid cross-contamination," the spokesman said. For more information on food safety tips, please visit the webpage of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department’s Centre for Food Safety.

C. Travel-related diseases

     Dengue fever (DF) remains endemic in some areas in Asia. Travellers should wear light-coloured long-sleeved clothes and long trousers and apply insect repellent containing DEET to clothing or uncovered parts of the body. Travellers returning from areas affected by DF and Zika virus infection should apply insect repellent for 14 days or at least 21 days upon arrival, respectively.

     Regarding Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), as countries in the Middle East, particularly the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, continue to report cases from time to time, travellers should avoid going to farms, barns or markets with camels and avoid contact with sick persons and animals, especially camels, birds or poultry.

     The Mainland recently reported the first human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in this winter in late November. Based on their seasonal pattern, the activity of avian influenza viruses is expected to increase in the Mainland. Travellers should avoid visiting wet markets, live poultry markets or farms.

     "The public should stay alert to possible backyard poultry when visiting relatives and friends, avoid purchasing live or freshly slaughtered poultry, and avoid touching poultry or birds or their droppings. They should strictly observe personal and hand hygiene when visiting any place with live poultry," the spokesman said.

D. Seasonal influenza

     Locally, the public, particularly children, the elderly and those with underlying illnesses, are urged to get vaccinated early to better protect themselves against seasonal influenza (SI) before the winter influenza season.

     "While local activity of SI remains at low level, it continues to increase in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere and the winter influenza season has arrived in the United States, Canada and Japan. We anticipate that the local winter influenza season may arrive in early 2018," the spokesman said.

     "If symptoms develop, consult a doctor promptly and reveal your travel and exposure history to facilitate prompt diagnosis and treatment as well as necessary investigations and timely disease control," the spokesman added.

     The public may visit the CHP's pages on SF, chickenpox, viral gastroenteritis, food poisoning, avian influenza, MERS, DF, Zika and SI for more information.
Ends/Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Issued at HKT 11:01
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