Winter Influenza Season Arrives In Hong Kong

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The Hong Kong Department of Health called on members of the public to take precautionary measures against seasonal influenza.

Head of the Emergency Response and Information Branch of the CHP, Dr Thomas Chung, said the Centre has been closely monitoring influenza activity. Most recent data show an increasing number of influenza isolates, which signal the arrival of the winter influenza season.

Traditionally, the winter influenza season in Hong Kong tends to arrive between January and March.

Influenza virus isolation in the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Centre (PHLC) showed a steady rise, Dr Chung noted.

The PHLC recorded 105 influenza detections last week (from January 18 to 24) as compared with 69 influenza detections from January 12 to 17.

Dr Chung said CHP also received 10 influenza-like-illness outbreaks in institutions affecting 59 persons in the same week, among them 2 were confirmed to be caused by influenza.

The consultation rates for influenza-like-illness in private doctors and general out-patients clinics (GOPC) have not yet shown obvious signs of increase.

During the week ending January 24, consultation rates for influenza-like illness in private doctors and GOPC were 27.7 and 4.9 per 1000 consultations respectively while the corresponding figures for the week before were 38.5 and 5.2 respectively.

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Dr Chung said, "CHP will monitor these consultation rates in anticipation of their rise over the next few weeks as the flu season progresses."

He added that as a prudent and preventive measure, the CHP will send letters to doctors, schools and institutions alerting them about the most current influenza situation and providing advice on prevention and control.

The Government launched the Influenza Vaccination Programme in November last year. So far a total of over 270, 000 doses of flu vaccine have been administered to eligible target groups. The Programme will last until March 31 and eligible persons are urged to receive vaccination as soon as possible.

Dr Chung reminded people to take the following measures to prevent influenza and other respiratory illnesses:

* To build up good body immunity by having a proper diet, regular exercise and adequate rest, reducing stress and avoiding smoking;

* To maintain good personal and environmental hygiene;

* To wash hands after sneezing, coughing or cleaning the nose;

* To maintain good ventilation; and

* To avoid visiting crowded places with poor ventilation.

People, particularly young children, elderly people and those with chronic diseases, should wear face masks and consult their doctors for medical advice promptly if they developed influenza-like symptoms.

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