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Dengue Fever

Hong Kong is entering winter influenza season


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     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (January 28) announced that Hong Kong is entering the winter influenza season, and again urged the public, particularly young children, the elderly and persons with chronic illnesses, to get vaccinated early and observe strict hand, personal and environmental hygiene.

     "The latest surveillance data show that the seasonal influenza activity continues to increase from the baseline level and is expected to rise further in the following weeks," a spokesman for the CHP said.

Surveillance data
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     The percentage positive for seasonal influenza viruses increased from 5.85 per cent in the week ending January 16 to 7.29 per cent last week among respiratory specimens received by the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Services Branch. Among influenza virus detections last week, 67 per cent were A(H1N1)pdm09, 23 per cent were B and 5 per cent were A(H3N2).

     "Virus characterisation studies to date have not revealed significant differences between circulating and vaccine virus strains," the spokesman added.

     Turning to influenza-like illness (ILI), in the same period, the ILI consultation rate reported by sentinel private doctors rose from 55.3 ILI cases per 1 000 consultations to 69.0, while that of General Out-patient Clinics increased from 4.7 to 5.8.

     The influenza-associated admission rate in public hospitals among children aged under five increased from 0.57 cases per 10 000 persons to 1.07 in the same period, while that among the elderly aged 65 or above rose from 0.10 to 0.12.

     Nine ILI outbreaks in institutions/schools were recorded each last week (affecting 63 persons) and this week (56 persons) as of yesterday (January 27). In the past four weeks, outbreaks mainly occurred in primary schools (60 per cent) and kindergartens or child care centres (30 per cent).

Enhanced surveillance
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     From tomorrow (January 29) onwards, as in previous seasons, the CHP will collaborate with public and private hospitals to reactivate the enhanced surveillance for severe seasonal influenza, i.e. cases of influenza-associated admission to the Intensive Care Unit or death of those aged 18 or above, during the winter season to better monitor the severity of illness.

     A total of 647 cases (including 501 deaths or 77 per cent) were recorded in the last winter season in early 2015, while 266 cases (including 133 deaths or 50 per cent) were filed in that in early 2014.

     The routine surveillance of severe paediatric influenza-associated complications or deaths of those aged below 18 is ongoing. No cases have been detected so far this year, while 25 cases (including one death) and 27 cases (including four deaths) were reported in 2015 and 2014 respectively.

     "We will issue letters to doctors, hospitals, institutions and schools to appeal for heightened vigilance," a spokesman said.

Vaccination
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     As of January 24, about 364 000 doses of seasonal influenza vaccines had been administered under the Government Vaccination Programme (GVP) and about 175 000 under the Vaccination Subsidy Scheme, i.e. about 539 000 in total, an increase of 20 per cent compared to the same period in 2014-15.

     "Regarding the GVP's stock, about 36 000 doses remain available. Eligible groups yet to be vaccinated should do so early for better protection, as antibodies take about two weeks to develop. Vaccination services will continue until all vaccines are used up. The public may refer to the notice to be displayed in respective clinics and centres," the spokesman said.

     The public may visit the GVP page (www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/18630.html) for the list of General Out-patient Clinics and Elderly Health Centres where vaccines are still available. They may also call the CHP hotline (2125 2125) for enquiries during office hours.

     Alternatively, eligible persons can also receive vaccination with a $160 subsidy per dose via the Vaccination Subsidy Scheme. The public may refer to the list of enrolled private doctors in the eHealth system (https://apps.hcv.gov.hk/SDIR/EN/index.aspx).

     "We also appeal to members of the public for early vaccination upon consultation with their family doctors for better personal protection," the spokesman said.

Neighbouring and overseas areas
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     Influenza activities in neighbouring and overseas areas in the Northern Hemisphere has been on the rise, including the United States, Canada, Europe, the United Kingdom and Taiwan where A(H1N1)pdm09 was predominating. In the Mainland, while A and B were co-circulating, among A detections, the major circulating virus was A(H1N1)pdm09 in southern provinces and A(H3N2) in northern provinces.

     "We will continue to closely monitor local and overseas influenza activities," the spokesman said.

     The public should maintain good personal and environmental hygiene 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;
* Wash or clean hands frequently, especially before touching the mouth, nose or eyes, or after touching public installations such as handrails or door knobs;
* 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 when staying 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 pages below for more information:

* The influenza page (www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/14843.html); and
* The weekly Flu Express report (www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/2108.html).

Ends/Thursday, January 28, 2016
Issued at HKT 11:35