Flu warning remains as city goes back to work; death rate in severe cases causes concern

Credit: CNN.com

As Hong Kong gets back to normal after the holiday, warnings are being issued that we remain in the grip of an unusually severe flu outbreak. Centre for Health Protection figures on the death rate are alarming. From January 7 to February 14 a total of 300 people were reported to have developed severe flu symptoms and 174 died. Two were children.

“Flu Express” issued by the Health Department said flu in Hong Kong “is at a high level”.  The virus responsible is, unusually, influenza B. This can cause serious illness in high-risk people and is dangerous for the young. Hence Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s decision to close kindergartens and primary schools four days early for Chinese new year.

Patients will be flooding A&E centres at hospitals today, Dr Leung Pak-yin, chief executive of the Hospital Authority, said. A total of 6870 people had visited A&E departments on Sunday and it was reported that in-patient beds were at 111 per cent occupancy. Sai Kung’s Mona Fong clinic will be busy.

The flu B virus surge is expected to last until May. Then the summer outbreak of the common flu virus A will start.

The Health Department issued the usual warnings:

— Get vaccinated especially if you are among the high-risk groups: elderly, young or otherwise ill with low immunity.

— Avoid crowded and poorly ventilated places

— Always wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially if you have been in public places

— If you develop symptoms wear a mask to lessen the chance of spreading the disease to others. (Nowhere does it tell people to wear masks to prevent contracting the disease. A University of Science and Technology professor told BUZZ that masks are ineffective at stopping viruses unless they are sealed to your face.)

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