Health department warns of possible flu outbreak
The Department of Health yesterday warned of the possibility of a serious flu outbreak in Hong Kong.
It revealed that this summer 64 people from four separate institutions had been admitted to hospital with symptoms of the virus. Of those, 34 remain in hospital.
But it said none of the laboratory tests conducted so far had proved positive for Sars. 'Hong Kong has remained Sars free since early June,' it said.
The patients come from two elderly homes and two hostels for the mentally handicapped - the Salvation Army Lai King Home, the Tung Fong Home in Sheung Shui, the Christianity Mei Wun Care Home in Yuen Long and the Sunlight Gerocomy Centre in Chai Wan.
All but one of the 34 patients still in hospital are said to be in a stable condition in hospital. The other is in intensive care.
Medical Association president Lo Wing-lok said it was unusual that so many people from four institutions had been admitted to hospital. He feared that a flu outbreak could already have a firm foothold in the city, saying the residents may have caught the disease from visitors.
A department statement said: 'It is necessary for members of the public, including those living and working in institutional settings, to exercise caution and take preventive measures to protect themselves.'
Consultation rates for flu at public outpatient clinics have jumped significantly in a month - from one per 1,000 cases in public out-patient clinics in the first week of June to 2.7 per 1,000 cases in the middle of this month. The consultation rate for influenza in private clinics rose from 22.9 per 1,000 cases in June to 39.8 this month.
Protection measures against flu include maintaining good ventilation and good environmental and personal hygiene. Those with symptoms and their carers are advised to wear masks to avoid infection.