Two-year-old girl fighting for her life as Hong Kong summer flu season hits

Doctors advise residents to seek medical attention if symptoms develop

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 July, 2017, 11:49am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 July, 2017, 11:07pm

Doctors have warned Hongkongers that the flu season is worse than usual this summer and set to peak over the next two weeks.

A two-year-old girl is fighting for her life after contracting severe paediatric influenza A and official figures show that the weekly number of severe cases soared from 17 to 33 in the second half of June, with 71 cases reported from June 11 to July 1.

The figures are a stark contrast to the same period last year, where no severe cases were reported. There were 91 cases reported from June 14 to July 4 in 2015.

Dr Leung Chi-chiu, chairman of the Hong Kong Medical Association Advisory’s Committee on Communicable Diseases, advised vulnerable groups, mainly young children and the elderly, to see a doctor as soon as they felt sick, and to consider antiviral therapy if their conditions were severe.

“Summer flu is not rare in Hong Kong but it’s stronger this year,” Dr Leung said.

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“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.”

The Centre for Health Protection is investigating three recent cases of severe paediatric influenza A, one of which involves the two-year-old girl, who is in critical condition; a three year-old girl is in a serious condition, while a 19-month-old boy is in stable condition.

The probes were launched after six patients and a staff member in a male psychiatric rehabilitation ward developed symptoms of the virus at the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital this week. An outbreak involving 26 people also hit an elderly home in Tsuen Wan recently.

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“[The centre] again urged the public, particularly young children, to observe strict hand, personal and environmental hygiene amid the influenza season,” a spokesman for the centre said. “Children, the elderly and those with chronic diseases should promptly seek medical advice if influenza-like symptoms develop.”

The two-year-old who is in critical condition presented with fever on Monday and developed shortness of breath and had convulsions the next day. She is being treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

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“The clinical diagnoses were encephalopathy and shock. Initial inquiries revealed that her elder sister had recent upper respiratory tract infection symptoms [and is in a] stable condition. Other family contacts have been asymptomatic all along,” the centre said.

The centre also said that the three-year-old girl in serious condition previously had good health. She developed a fever, cough and was vomiting on Monday, and had convulsions the following day. Doctors said she was infected with influenza A complicated with encephalopathy. She is being treated at Tuen Mun Hospital.

The three infected children had not received seasonal influenza vaccinations for the current season and had no travel history during the incubation period.

Earlier, the centre said six patients and a staff member at the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital’s psychiatric rehabilitation ward developed symptoms of influenza A. Three of them have been confirmed to carry the virus and are being treated under isolation.

At the Tsuen Wan elderly centre, 17 have tested positive for influenza.

The centre urged the public to maintain good indoor ventilation, wash hands with soap properly, and receive seasonal influenza vaccination.