With the city battling three influenza strains at once, 1 in 12 patients at private clinics has influenza symptoms The number of people seeking treatment for flu symptoms is at a five-year high as doctors battle simultaneous outbreaks of three types of influenza. One in 12 people seeking treatment at family doctors last week complained of flu symptoms. H3N2, H1N1 and the California-type flu virus are the common strains hitting the city at the moment. Department of Health consultant Thomas Tsang Ho-fai said it was uncommon for different flu strains to emerge simultaneously. But he said no evidence suggested the three strains of flu were affecting more people and places than a single one. The proportion of private doctors' patients complaining of flu symptoms rose to 83.7 per 1,000 last week, from 78.1 per 1,000 a week earlier - close to the 89 cases per 1,000 recorded by doctors in 2000. At hospital outpatient clinics, flu cases rose from 9.8 per 1,000 in the second week of March to 11.6 per 1,000 last week - matching the previous high for hospitals, which also came in 2000 - department figures show. The figures were compiled from a departmental survey of 64 general outpatient clinics and 50 private doctors. Health officials said eight flu outbreaks involving 83 people were reported to the department's Centre for Health Protection last week. The infections occurred at four homes for the elderly - in Tuen Mun, Sha Tin, Tung Chung and Tseung Kwan O - Tuen Mun Hospital, Wong Tai Sin Hospital, a kindergarten in Kowloon Tong and a primary school in Chai Wan. Dr Tsang, a consultant in the department's Centre for Health Protection, said on an RTHK radio programme yesterday that according to the record of cases reported at private and public clinics, the number was higher than last year. He also said more observation was required before estimating how long the peak flu season would last. Earlier this week, Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok urged city residents suffering from common colds to visit private clinics instead of crowding hospital emergency wards, which were already overrun with flu patients. Hospital Authority figures showed the average number of visitors to emergency wards last week was 6,336 per day, an increase of nearly 20 per cent over the third week in February. The Department of Health's senior medical and health officer, Lam Wing-kwun, urged flu patients with chronic illnesses to seek advice from their regular family doctor. He reminded the public that antibiotics were not needed to treat the flu, as patients normally recovered naturally within a week.