Vigilance urged on flu infection

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 March, 2008, 12:00am

The latest flu outbreak provided a timely reminder to the public to maintain round-the-clock vigilance against infection and to the government to boost health education, health experts said yesterday.

The Centre for Health Protection received four new reports of flu yesterday through the influenza surveillance arrangements set up by the Health Department with public and private hospitals on Thursday.

One of the cases, a two-year-old girl, was confirmed to have influenza and was admitted to Tseung Kwan O Hospital on Friday.

The other three had flu-like symptoms but were not yet confirmed to have contracted influenza.

Up to yesterday, two children confirmed to have influenza remained in hospital.

Medical Association chairman Choi Kin said the current flu response showed the public might have forgotten the painful lessons of Sars in 2003 and become less vigilant with infection prevention measures.

'Many seem to have forgotten the lessons learned from the Sars outbreak, like personal hygiene, wearing of masks ... or not going to crowded places when they are sick,' he said.

The present peak flu season and the recent deaths of three children with flu-like symptoms, which led to the decision to close schools until March 28, should be an alarm for the public and government.

'By now, the public should be aware that everything should have its contingency measures.'

The public's flu response reflected a lack of public health education in the city, he said.

The flu peak has put a huge strain on public hospital services, with many people flocking to accident and emergency rooms for treatment since a three-year-old girl died of flu on March 1, resulting in occupancy rates in most public wards of about 110 per cent.

Infectious diseases specialist Lo Wing-lok said now was a good time for the government to boost health education. 'As each year we face flu peaks, I suggest the government can educate the public more on flu and provide relevant information like the preventive measures,' he said.

He also called on the government to address the problem of a lack of resources at Tuen Mun hospital, one of the public hospitals worst hit by the peak flu demand.

Meanwhile, the Labour Department advised all employers and employees to take precautionary measures in workplaces to combat flu.