Nine more Hong Kong flu patients die, bringing death toll to 32 for 2018, as Macau leader also sick
Chief executive of casino hub Fernando Chui out of action for five days, as elderly and children fall victim to surge in flu cases
Nine more flu patients have died in Hong Kong this week, bringing the death toll since the start of the year to 32.
The city’s Centre for Health Protection revealed the loss of life on Thursday as the government of neighbouring Macau disclosed that the casino hub’s leader Fernando Chui Sai-on had also come down with the virus.
Chui has been on leave since Tuesday and will take a total of five days off to rest.
The latest deaths follow Hong Kong’s first fatal case of child influenza in the year, which was made public on Monday. The girl was three years old.
This week, between Sunday and Wednesday, 18 adult flu patients were recorded as severe cases in Hong Kong. Since the official start of the winter flu season on January 7, some 41 adult sufferers have been classified as severe. Twenty-three of these died. Most of the deaths were elderly patients, aged 65 or above.
Among all age groups, the city has seen 63 severe flu cases since the beginning of the year, with 32 fatal.
But despite the loss of life, Professor Ivan Hung Fan-ngai, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of Hong Kong, said the situation so far was not particularly bad.
“Most of the cases have been influenza B, which in general brings milder symptoms than influenza A,” Hung said, as he called on Hongkongers to get vaccinated.
The Hospital Authority on Thursday appealed to the public for understanding amid overcrowding at the city’s public hospitals as flu cases spiked.
Dr Ian Cheung, the authority’s chief manager for cluster performance, said there had been a surge in attendance at public accident and emergency departments.
“The average daily attendance was close to 7,000 at the beginning of this week, 10 per cent higher than last week,” Cheung said.
He said the number of patients admitted to public medical wards daily was over 1,100 in the past few days, adding pressure to already saturated wards and lengthening waiting times for admission at some hospitals.
In the past week, hospitals with patients waiting more than 12 hours to be admitted included Kwong Wah Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Tuen Mun Hospital and United Christian Hospital.
Some patients classed as non-urgent were forced to wait more than eight hours just to see a doctor.
More than 1,500 extra beds have been laid on in the past few days to cope with the increased demand.
Statistics from the authority showed that on Wednesday alone more than 6,400 people sought medical help at public emergency departments. Some 1,148 of these people were admitted to wards. The bed occupancy rate on the wards was 112 per cent.