Girl critical with rare flu strain

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 March, 2012, 12:00am


A four-year-old girl infected with a potentially fatal strain of influenza was in a critical condition yesterday as the flu continues to overshadow the spring season.

The girl, who has not travelled out of the city recently, was confirmed to have contracted influenza B.

She first developed a fever and cough on March 8. She was found unconscious at home the next day and was admitted to the paediatric intensive care unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei.

She developed a rare disease known as haemorrhagic shock encephalopathy syndrome - which is characterised by an acute onset of severe shock, blood clotting, brain disease, and liver and kidney dysfunction in previously healthy children.

Most cases of the syndrome, whose cause is unknown, occur in patients aged between eight months and three years, but it can also hit older children. Symptoms include an extremely high body temperature and multiple organ failure. Patients are likely to die or develop long-term neurological problems.

Last month a six-year-old girl who tested positive for influenza B recovered after hospital treatment.

Meanwhile, a 48-year-old woman in a long-stay ward at Castle Peak Hospital in Tuen Mun has tested positive for the influenza B virus.

Five patients aged 42 to 68 and a staff member on the ward have caught the flu since March 7. The hospital has suspended admission and restricted visits to the ward.

For the week ending March 10, an average of 6.9 patients out of 1,000 visited clinics for flu-like symptoms, up from 6.4 a week ago, the Centre for Health Protection said. In a survey of 50 doctors, one out of 20 patients had flu, it said.

Family practitioner Dr Betty Kwan Ka-mei said about half of her patients had sought help for flu-like symptoms in the past week.

'[The peak flu season] is continuing, especially with the fluctuating weather,' she said.

Fewer people had received flu jabs this year, and a lot of doctors saw a surplus of stock, she added.

People are advised to fend off flu by maintaining good personal hygiene, having a proper diet and regular exercise, taking adequate rest, reducing stress and avoiding smoking.