Officials urge caution over flu

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 March, 2008, 12:00am

Health officials say people should remain on the alert for flu outbreaks, although no children with suspected flu-related complications were admitted to hospitals yesterday.

From March 13 to yesterday, the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health reported that it had received reports that 24 children with suspected flu symptoms had been admitted to private or public hospitals.

Six had tested positive for influenza and all had recovered and been discharged from hospital.

Deputy director of Health Gloria Tam Lai-fan said the winter-flu peak normally lasted from February to April, so people should stay alert and continue precautions.

Hospital Authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk said the flu danger period might continue till May and people should be aware of personal hygiene and get vaccinations if necessary.

At a community health education campaign in Tuen Mun yesterday, Samantha Pang Mei-che, head of a World Health Organisation regional centre, said she strongly supported a government proposal to give free flu vaccinations to children aged 12 or younger.

'Children generally have weaker immunity,' she said.

'Their hygiene awareness is also not so strong. Many of them don't know how to take good care of themselves, so they have a higher risk of contracting flu.'

Professor Pang, also head of Polytechnic University's School of Nursing, said that although flu vaccination generally only cut the chances of getting flu by half, it was still an effective preventive measure.

She praised the government's decision to close kindergarten and primary schools for two weeks from March 13 to this Friday.

'It is a good move to suspend classes for two weeks when there are signs of flu outbreaks,' she said.

The government only provides free vaccinations to chronically ill patients, some Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients - including people aged 65 or older - children between six and 23 months old and pregnant women.