Some HK re­ports on flu called mis­lead­ing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHOU MO in Shen­zhen and WILLA WU in Hong Kong

Con­cern has risen in Hong Kong over the out­break of sea­sonal in­fluenza, but of­fi­cials said that re­ports com­par­ing it to the out­break of se­vere acute res­pi­ra­tory syn­drome in 2003 are mis­lead­ing.

In Hong Kong, 324 sum­mer flu-re­lated deaths were recorded from May 5 to Aug 6, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­tre for Health Pro­tec­tion un­der the spe­cial ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gion’s Depart­ment of Health.

The num­ber of deaths dur­ing win­ter flu sea­son reached 442 in 2015 and 171 in 2016, ac­cord­ing to CHP records.

Some news re­ports last week­end said that the sum­mer flu in Hong Kong had killed more peo­ple than the SARS epi­demic did in 2003.

But Guan Yi, direc­tor of State Key Lab­o­ra­tory of Emerg­ing In­fec­tious Dis­eases and the Cen­ter of In­fluenza Re­search at the Univer­sity of Hong Kong, said the two num­bers are not com­pa­ra­ble, and added that such cov­er­age “ex­ag­ger­ated the sit­u­a­tion” and would cre­ate un­nec­es­sary pub­lic fear.

Guan said the deaths caused by sum­mer flu of­ten in­volve se­nior cit­i­zens, a high­risk de­mo­graphic, many of whom have chronic dis­eases and a weak im­mune sys­tem. Sum­mer flu can trig­ger other com­pli­ca­tions that can cause death, he added.

Dur­ing the SARS epi­demic, how­ever, the virus was much more po­tent and killed peo­ple of all ages, Guan noted.

In 2003, SARS claimed 299 lives from March 10 to June 23 in Hong Kong, killing 17 per­cent of those who got sick, of­fi­cial data show.

The CHP es­ti­mated that the death rate for sum­mer flu this year would be less than 2.1 per­cent, given that most pa­tients would re­cover in two to seven days. The death rate in past flu sea­sons has ranged from 1.9 per­cent to 3.3 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the CHP.

The sum­mer flu sea­son is ex­pected to con­tinue for the next few weeks, CHP of­fi­cials said.

In Shen­zhen, mean­while, the dis­ease con­trol and pre­ven­tion depart­ment is­sued

its high­est-level alert for the past three weeks for sea­sonal flu, and it warned that the sit­u­a­tion bears watch­ing this week since the num­ber of in­fec­tions is still ex­pected to in­crease at a high rate.

How­ever, Song Tie, deputy direc­tor of the Guang­dong Pro­vin­cial Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, said the sit­u­a­tion this year is sim­i­lar to that of pre­vi­ous years, ex­cept that the peak has come later.

Sea­sonal in­fluenza usu­ally breaks out be­tween May and July in south­ern Guang­dong prov­ince, but the peak may come ear­lier or later de­pend­ing on the par­tic­u­lar strain of the virus, said Kong Dongfeng, as­so­ciate se­nior physi­cian of the com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­ease con­trol and pre­ven­tion di­vi­sion of Shen­zhen Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

The most preva­lent in­fluenza virus this year is the H3N2 virus, ac­count­ing for 75 per­cent of the cases in Guang­dong, with chil­dren, preg­nant women, the el­derly and those with chronic dis­eases be­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble groups, of­fi­cials said. No sta­tis­tics on deaths were re­leased.

Last month, 1,468 in­fluenza cases were de­tected at Shen­zhen ports of en­try, com­pared with 848 cases in June, both rep­re­sent­ing sig­nif­i­cant growth com­pared with a year ear­lier, ac­cord­ing to the Shen­zhen En­try-Exit In­spec­tion and Quar­an­tine Bureau.

In­fluenza-like ill­nesses rep­re­sented 4.64 per­cent of all the out­pa­tient cases in the city from July 26 to Aug 1, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics. The fig­ure for the pre­vi­ous week was 4.98 per­cent.

Guan, from Hong Kong, sug­gested that peo­ple take Tam­i­flu, an an­tivi­ral med­i­ca­tion used to treat and pre­vent in­fluenza A and in­fluenza B, once they ex­pe­ri­ence such symp­toms as runny nose, cough­ing, fever and other flu symp­toms.

ROY LIU / CHINA DAILY

A pa­tient is trans­ported at Queen El­iz­a­beth Hos­pi­tal on Mon­day in Hong Kong. The smaller poster lists rec­om­mended pre­cau­tions dur­ing the flu sea­son.

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