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Public urged to heighten vigilance against influenza
     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (March 23) urged members of the public to heighten their vigilance against seasonal influenza as the latest surveillance data indicated that the local seasonal influenza activity has slightly increased in the past two weeks.
     "The immunity against influenza in the local community as a whole may be relatively weaker than in the past given that the local seasonal influenza activity has been staying at low levels over the past three years. Our surveillance data indicated that the local seasonal influenza activity has slightly increased recently and we urge the public, particularly children, the elderly and chronic disease patients, to receive seasonal influenza vaccination (SIV) as early as possible. Strict personal, hand and environmental hygiene should also be observed at all times," a spokesman for the CHP said.
     The CHP has been closely monitoring the local influenza situation. Among the respiratory specimens received by the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Services Branch and the Hospital Authority, the weekly percentage of detections tested positive for seasonal influenza A or B viruses has increased slightly from 0.75 per cent in the week ending March 4 to 3.31 per cent in the week ending March 18. The majority of positive detections in the past two weeks were influenza A(H1) viruses.
     In public hospitals, the admission rates with a principal diagnosis of influenza have slightly increased, particularly among persons aged under 12 years and those aged 50 years or above. The overall admission rate with a principal diagnosis of influenza has increased from 0.01 cases (per 10 000 population) in the week ending March 4 to 0.07 cases (per 10 000 population) in the week ending March 18. Regarding severe influenza infection, nine cases have been recorded in March so far (as of March 22), as compared with a total of five cases in January to February.
     The Government has launched in phases various seasonal influenza vaccination programmes since September last year to provide eligible members of the public with free or subsidised SIV. Since SIV is one of the effective means to prevent seasonal influenza and its complications, as well as reduce influenza-related hospitalisation and death, all persons aged 6 months or above, except those with known contraindications, are recommended to receive SIV for personal protection. As it takes about two weeks to develop antibodies, members of the public, particularly persons at higher risk of getting influenza and its complications, including the elderly and children, should receive SIV early.
     Besides receiving SIV as early as possible for personal protection, the following measures are advised to prevent influenza and respiratory tract infections:
  • 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;
  • For high-risk persons (e.g. persons with underlying medical conditions or persons who are immunocompromised), 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 classes at school, avoid going to crowded places and seek medical advice promptly; and
  • Build up good body immunity by having a balanced diet, exercise regularly, take adequate rest, do not smoke and avoid overstress.

     For the latest information on influenza activity, please visit the CHP's influenza page and weekly COVID-19 & Flu Express. As for vaccination, the public may visit the CHP's Vaccination Schemes page
Ends/Thursday, March 23, 2023
Issued at HKT 18:35
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