Nearly a third of all preschool centres in Hong Kong had by Monday night reported a flu outbreak and suspended classes for a week.
That came after 67 more kindergartens and childcare centres joined the list, bringing the total amount of those affected to 301.
The new numbers from the Centre for Health Protection meant roughly 30 per cent of the city’s about 1,000 kindergartens and childcare centres were affected. The new cases were reported between 4pm on Saturday and the same time on Monday.
Health authorities first announced the week-long suspensions for outbreak-hit institutions on Friday, as a way to curb the spread of flu, meaning some affected schools began their closure from Saturday. An outbreak at a school is defined as three cases in four days.
Dr Wong Ka-hing, the centre’s controller, had described the outbreaks as being at a “critical stage”, with the number of cases at a “very high level”.
All 18 districts in the city had newly affected kindergartens. Kowloon City, Sha Tin and Tuen Mun had the biggest increases, each with six more institutions closing temporarily.
Sha Tin had the most kindergartens closed, with 35 of its 81 affected.
“The latest surveillance data indicated that the local seasonal influenza activity has continued to increase in the past two weeks and may continue to rise in the period ahead,” a spokesman for the centre said.
He urged young children, people over 50 and anyone with underlying illnesses to get vaccinated as soon as possible to prevent flu.
Latest statistics showed that preschools continued to bear the brunt of new outbreaks. Among the 207 new outbreaks reported last week across various places, 155 were from kindergartens and childcare centres.
Between the start of the winter flu season in December and this Sunday, there had been 334 outbreaks reported in various institutions. Also as of Sunday, 155 adults and 11 children had suffered from severe flu, and 64 of those adults died.
On Monday evening, a three-year-old boy was reported to have a severe influenza A infection.
He was admitted to Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei on January 15 and later developed respiratory failure. He was transferred to the hospital’s paediatric intensive care unit and was in a stable condition.
Separate flu outbreaks were also reported in a residential care home for the disabled in Tsuen Wan and a kindergarten and childcare centre in Yuen Long.
The Hong Kong Medical Association on Monday recommended that doctors use antiviral treatment for confirmed or suspected influenza cases.
“If clinically indicated, empirical antiviral treatment should be started as soon as possible,” the association’s advisory committee on communicable diseases said in a statement.
“Laboratory confirmation of influenza virus infection is not necessary for the initiation of treatment, especially during seasonal influenza epidemic.”