Girl, 3, becomes first child fatality of winter flu season in Hong Kong
The child, who had been receiving care at United Christian Hospital since January 6, died on Monday
A three-year-old girl who had been suffering from flu died on Monday morning, the first fatal case of child influenza in Hong Kong this year.
The girl’s death came after the Centre for Health Protection announced last Wednesday that the city had entered the winter flu season as the number of cases was rising.
A Hospital Authority spokesman said the girl, who had been receiving care at United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong since January 6, died at around 6.30am.
The centre announced that the girl’s case was severe a day after she was admitted to hospital. She developed fever, cough with sputum, runny nose and sore throat on January 5. The next day she was sent to the hospital’s paediatric intensive care unit through the accident and emergency department, after she was found unresponsive with purplish skin.
The girl had been in critical condition since January 7.
It was confirmed she had been infected with the influenza B virus and suffered from encephalopathy, or brain damage. The centre said the girl did not receive the flu vaccine for the current season and did not have any recent travel history.
As of Sunday, the city recorded 44 severe flu cases among adults this year. Twenty-three patients from these cases have died. Separately, two severe flu cases in children were also recorded, including the three-year-old girl who died on Monday.
A 15-year-old girl was added to the list of severe cases for children on Monday. The girl, who was in a serious condition, was transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung. She was first admitted to Yan Chai Hospital after presenting symptoms such as fever and vomiting. She had received flu vaccination in mainland China last month.
A flu outbreak at St Francis of Assisi’s English Primary School in Sham Shui Po was also reported by the centre on Monday. A total of 19 boys and nine girls, aged from six to 11, were affected. They were all in stable condition.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said that as of January 7, more than 647,000 doses of flu vaccines had been provided under government schemes that were free or subsidised.
Among the recipients, 105,500 were children aged between six months and under 12 years. So far, 16 per cent of children in this age group who were eligible for the schemes have received vaccinations for the current season.
Dr Henry Yeung Chiu-fat, president of the Hong Kong Doctors Union, said his clinic and those of other doctors experienced a shortage of quadrivalent flu vaccines, which protect against four types of flu viruses. Yeung said this was due to an increasing number of people seeking vaccination.
“Mid-January is usually when we approach the end of the flu vaccination period. But there are still many people coming in for flu jabs, so doctors have [underestimated] the amount of vaccines needed,” Yeung said.
He said he believed that more people were coming in for the vaccines after learning of the arrival of the flu season and the rising number of cases.
Yeung said it was difficult for doctors to order more vaccines from pharmaceutical firms, but he suggested that the government could transfer some stocks to the private market to meet demand.
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A spokesman for Sanofi Pasteur, one of the major suppliers of quadrivalent flu vaccines, said no significant increase was recorded in the number of orders from private doctors in the past two years.
The company would deliver vaccines as usual to doctors who had pre-ordered vaccines earlier, while new orders would be placed on the waiting list.
The spokesman said the company hoped to transfer stocks from neighbouring areas to Hong Kong if there was any need.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health said it was in close contact with vaccine suppliers and it was aware of stocks in the private market. It had also requested suppliers to import sufficient vaccine quantities to meet local needs.