Ex­perts urge vac­ci­na­tions as flu sea­son hits na­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By SHAN JUAN in Bei­jing and WANG HONGYI in Shang­hai

Top pub­lic health ex­perts are urg­ing peo­ple to be vac­ci­nated for the sea­sonal flu as the coun­try is fac­ing an epi­demic more se­ri­ous than last year.

Feng Zi­jian, deputy di­rec­tor of the Chi­nese Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion, said it is even tougher to con­tain flu viruses as peo­ple head home for this year’s Spring Fes­ti­val.

“Com­pared with pre­vi­ous years, the flu viruses are much more ac­tive, es­pe­cially in south­ern China,” he warned.

Ac­cord­ing to Feng, health de­part­ments have de­tected three ma­jor strains of the flu virus: H1, H3 and In­fluenza B.

In past years, usu­ally only one strain pre­vailed, but this winter all three strains are ac­tive, adding dif­fi­culty to both preven­tion and treat­ment, he noted.

“A low vac­ci­na­tion rate and mul­ti­ple ac­tive virus strains have led to a more se­ri­ous flu con­trol sit­u­a­tion in China this winter,” he said.

The main rea­son for the low vac­ci­na­tion rate is a gen­eral lack of aware­ness among the pub­lic about the dan­gers of the flu, as well as con­cerns about the safety of do­mes­tic vac­cines, ac­cord­ing to Feng.

In the US, some 27 per­cent of peo­ple are im­mu­nized against sea­sonal flu viruses. That num­ber is 2 to 3 per­cent in China.

“Many sim­ply un­der­es­ti­mate the health haz­ards of sea­sonal flu,” Feng said, urg­ing the pub­lic to be vac­ci­nated.

He said that an av­er­age of 142 peo­ple out of ev­ery 100,000 have been hos­pi­tal­ized due to sea­sonal flu across the coun­try dur­ing re­cent flu sea­sons.

In Bei­jing, a 73-year-old man died dur­ing the on­go­ing flu sea­son, ac­cord­ing to Pang Xinghuo, who heads the CDC in the cap­i­tal.

“Other un­der­ly­ing con­di­tions could be wors­ened by a flu in­fec­tion, par­tic­u­larly for the old and weak,” she said.

The flu is at its peak in Bei­jing now, of all out­pa­tient and emer­gency visits, 2.8 per­cent showed flu-like symp­toms, she noted, cit­ing re­sults from a city­wide sur­veil­lance net­work.

“But it’s still sim­i­lar to the sit­u­a­tion last year,” she noted.

She sug­gested that peo­ple trav­el­ing to south China or North Amer­ica get a flu shot as these ar­eas were hit even harder by the flu epi­demic. Con­tact the writ­ers at shan­juan@chi­nadaily.com.cn and wanghongyi@ chi­nadaily.com.cn.

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