Four-year-old girl seriously ill with flu as number of Hong Kong school outbreaks surges
Health chiefs urge parents to keep sick children out of school amid peak season which has already killed 341 adults and two children
A four-year-old girl suffering from flu was in a serious condition on Thursday night, as the number of schools reporting flu outbreaks surged.
The girl, who had a good previous health record, tested positive for influenza A, a spokesman for the Centre for Health Protection said. She had not been vaccinated against flu, and had had a fever, a cough and a runny nose since Tuesday. She went into convulsions on Thursday before being admitted to the paediatric intensive care unit at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan.
In the week ending March 10, there were 44 flu outbreaks at kindergartens and primary schools, three times more than the 13 of the previous week, the centre said in its latest flu surveillance report.
A kindergarten in Tsing Yi reported an influenza B outbreak on Thursday, affecting 20 students.
The centre urged parents to keep sick children out of school.
“To prevent outbreaks of influenza and other respiratory infections, it is of prime importance that children with fever, regardless of the presence of respiratory symptoms, should not be allowed to attend school,” its spokesman said.
“They should seek medical advice and avoid school until 48 hours after the fever has subsided. Schools should also measure and record students’ body temperature properly.”
So far during the current winter peak flu season, 20 children have suffered serious flu-related complications. Two of them died.
Of the 20, 19 had not had the flu vaccine for this year.
There were 517 adult cases reported to be serious and 341 of those patients had died by March 14.
If outbreaks in secondary schools and residential care homes for the elderly and disabled are added to kindergartens and primary schools, there were 54 outbreaks affecting 255 people in the week ending March 10, up from 19 outbreaks in the previous week.
The circulating flu viruses were predominantly influenza B, a strain that fewer people had antibodies for because it had been inactive in the city for years until recently.
But the spokesman said the overall flu spread was easing.
“The latest surveillance data showed that the overall influenza activity in Hong Kong has continued to decrease,” he said in the weekly Flu Express, published by the centre.
It came as the city had a severe flu vaccine shortage, which forced officials to this month bulk-buy flu shots intended for the southern hemisphere, which were schedules to arrive in mid-April. Health chiefs in the city, which is in the northern hemisphere, had never bought the other shot before.