Four more Hong Kong primary schools hit by flu as expert warns of post-Lunar New Year outbreak
HKU professor Ivan Hung fears impending spate of flu A H3 cases, which could lead to ‘severe’ situation in city
Four more primary schools were hit by flu outbreaks, as the city recorded more than 100 deaths during the winter flu peak season so far, and an expert warned of outbreaks of another flu strain after the Lunar New Year.
The latest figures from the Centre for Health Protection showed that from January 7 to February 4, some 182 adults developed serious flu complications. Of these, 104 died, with 88 of them aged older than 65.
Eleven children had serious flu, among whom two died – a three-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy.
A total of 114 flu outbreak cases were recorded in institutions last week. Among them, 63 were in kindergartens and 36 were in primary schools. The city has seen more than 330 outbreaks since the start of the current flu season.
“Local seasonal influenza activity is expected to remain at an elevated level in the coming few weeks,” a spokesman for the centre said on Monday.
Professor Ivan Hung Fan-ngai, an infectious disease expert from the University of Hong Kong, said there have been more school outbreaks involving the dominant strain of the influenza B virus, which had not been active in the past few years.
“Many children had not been infected with this virus before, and they were not vaccinated,” Hung said, adding that children usually had worse personal hygiene than adults.
He warned there could be an outbreak of the flu A H3 virus after the Lunar New Year. While many people had developed antibodies against influenza A after being infected during last year’s summer flu season, the protection might start to fade around six months later.
“The situation could be severe if there are double peaks in the flu season,” Hung said, worrying that the death toll would soar in such a situation.
On Monday, the centre revealed that 88 more children from four primary schools had been affected by the flu.
Two of the affected schools were in Wan Chai. Patients included 21 boys from St Joseph’s Primary School and 20 girls from Marymount Primary School. Nine pupils from these two schools tested positive for the influenza B virus.
In Tai Po, 20 pupils from Lam Tsuen Public Wong Fook Luen Memorial School had fallen ill. Among them, one pupil was confirmed to be carrying the influenza A virus.
Twenty-seven pupils in the primary division of Hong Kong Chinese Christian Churches Union Logos Academy in Tseung Kwan O also had flu-like symptoms.
All the affected children began developing symptoms like cough, fever and sore throat since January 12. They were in stable condition.
Officers from the centre have conducted site visits to the four schools, which have been put under medical surveillance.
Some private doctors have lamented that there has been a shortage of flu vaccines for weeks owing to the surge in patients. The supply of extra flu vaccines to the city from Sanofi Pasteur, one of the major suppliers, began last Friday.
The Hospital Authority has also been allocated an extra 15,700 vaccines to meet demand. Under the government vaccination programme, more than 340,000 people have received flu shots at public hospitals and outpatient clinics since October 25, when the programme began.