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CHP appeals to public again for heightened vigilance against upper respiratory tract infection and influenza-like illness
     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (May 3) reminded and strongly urged the public again to enhance their vigilance against upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) and influenza-like illness (ILI) due to continued rise in URTI and ILI outbreaks at schools recorded recently.

     The CHP received reports of URTI and ILI outbreaks in 99 schools recently (April 18 to May 3), including 72 kindergartens/child care centres and 27 primary schools, involving over 650 persons. Of them, reports of outbreaks in 42 schools, including 30 kindergartens/child care centres and 12 primary schools, are newly received today.
     A spokesman for the CHP said, "The CHP has already adopted the most stringent precautionary measures that schools will be required to suspend class immediately for five days if there is a URTI and/or ILI outbreak in the school. All staff and students of the school concerned will also be issued with a compulsory testing order for testing of COVID-19 so as to identify the infected persons as early as possible and minimise the risk of transmission in schools and the community."

     The spokesman explained that symptoms of URTI, ILI and other respiratory infections, including influenza and COVID-19, could be similar. It could be difficult to differentiate them clinically. Therefore, testing of COVID-19 at an earlier stage to facilitate earlier case detection is crucial in coping with the COVID-19 epidemic.

     Young children, the elderly and patients with chronic diseases are prone to respiratory tract infection and its complications. As schools are collective assembly places, infectious diseases could easily spread among people through their daily contacts. In view of this, the CHP has recently issued letters to schools and doctors to appeal for heightened vigilance and appropriate actions. To prevent outbreaks of respiratory tract infections including COVID-19, it is of prime importance that children with fever, regardless of the presence of respiratory symptom, should not be allowed to attend school. They should wear a mask and consult doctors promptly. Schools should check the body temperature of all students every day when they arrive at school so as to identify students with fever. Moreover, staff should also check their temperature before work every day. Students and staff with fever or respiratory illnesses should not go to school and seek medical attention immediately. Doctors are also urged to remain vigilant and arrange testing for respiratory infections for all patients presenting with acute respiratory symptoms.
     Meanwhile, the public should maintain good personal and environmental hygiene against influenza, COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses:
• Receive a seasonal influenza vaccination for personal protection;
• Surgical masks can prevent transmission of respiratory viruses from ill persons. It is essential for persons who are symptomatic (even if having mild symptoms) to wear a surgical mask;
• Wear a surgical mask when taking public transport or staying in crowded places. It is important to wear a mask properly, including performing hand hygiene before wearing and after removing a mask;
• Avoid touching one's eyes, mouth and nose;
• 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;
• Cover the nose and mouth with tissue paper when sneezing or coughing. Dispose of soiled tissue paper properly into a lidded rubbish bin, and wash hands thoroughly afterwards;
• Maintain good indoor ventilation;
• When having respiratory symptoms, wear a surgical mask, refrain from work or attending class at school, avoid going to crowded places and seek medical advice promptly; and
• Maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, take adequate rest, do not smoke and avoid overstress.
     Members of the public, particularly children, the elderly and those with chronic diseases, should wear a face mask and consult a doctor promptly if they develop symptoms of respiratory tract infection.
     Information on seasonal influenza vaccination can be found at the website (www.chp.gov.hk/en/features/100632.html). The Government has also launched the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, eligible persons can learn more about the programme at the designated website (www.covidvaccine.gov.hk).
Ends/Monday, May 3, 2021
Issued at HKT 22:20
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