Hong Kong is currently at the height of one of its worst influenza season in recent years with the season expected to peak in these two weeks. Compared to the same period in 2016, where no severe cases of influenza infection were reported, there have been already 71 cases reported, since 11 June till 1 July.

With the situation expected to worsen, doctors have warned the public to be more wary and seek treatment immediately especially for those among the vulnerable population; elderly and the very young.

“Summer flu is not rare in Hong Kong but it’s stronger this year,” said Dr Chi-Chiu Leung, chairman of the Hong Kong Medical Association Advisory’s Committee on Communicable Diseases. “The variety doesn’t change much. One of the reasons behind the earlier and stronger summer flu might be that people’s immunity is weaker due to a rather tepid winter flu.”

CHP investigates three cases of severe paediatric influenza A infection

Amidst the summer flu season, three children have contracted severe influenza A infection, which has led to a full-blown investigation by the Centre for Health Protection (CHP).

The first case involves a 2-year-old girl who was presented at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) with shortness of breath and convulsions. She was admitted to the hospital on 11 July and later transferred to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit where she was in critical condition. Diagnosed with shock and encephalopathy, it is believed that she contracted the disease from her older sibling. CHP announced her death on 14 July, four days after the hospital stay.

The second case involves a previously healthy 19-month old boy, who was admitted for vomiting, fever and convulsions to the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital (PYNEH). Following a short admission to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, the boy has since recovered from encephalopathy and is now in a stable condition.

Lastly, the third case involves a 3-year-old girl who was presented at the Accidents & Emergency Department of Tuen Mun Hospital (TMH) for fever, cough, vomiting and convulsions. She is currently admitted to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit – in order to receive further treatment where she is still in a critical condition. She is believed to have contracted the disease from an elder sibling.

In all three cases, the patients were diagnosed with influenza A complicated by encephalopathy, which necessitated intensive care treatment. Moreover, all three patients had not received their seasonal influenza vaccination for the summer season. Citing the severity of these cases, CHP are continuing their investigation on the matter.

Outbreak of influenza A at PYNEH’s Psychiatric Rehabilitation Ward under quarantine

In response to Hong Kong’s current flu season which is only expected to become worst, CHP has urged the public to maintain good personal and environmental hygiene to help prevent influenza and other flu-like illnesses. Positive measures recommended include:

• Receiving influenza vaccination
• Hand washing – frequently, with soap especially when soiled/contaminated
• Cover one’s nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing
• Proper disposal of soiled tissue paper
• Wear surgical masks in the presence of flu-like symptoms
• Maintain good indoor ventilation
• Avoid crowded areas
• Maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, get adequate rest, avoid smoking and excessive stress

In addition, the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Ward at PYNEH – where an outbreak of influenza A occurred – is currently under quarantine with all admissions to the ward having been suspended.

These measures are put into place as infection control measures to prevent a further outbreak within and without the hospital. Besides the hospital, a similar outbreak involving 26 people also occurred in an elderly care home in Tsuen Wan with 17 having tested positive for influenza A. MIMS

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