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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Deadly Flu Strikes Hong Kong As Chief Executive Calls For Action

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam has called on the Hospital Authority to come up with urgent measures “very soon” as medical facilities grapple with a flu crisis that has left 208 people dead since May.  The unusually strong outbreak of summer flu was putting hospitals under pressure, with patients waiting for at least six hours to see doctors. Those being admitted for confinement after ­initial treatment took up to 15 hours to get a hospital bed.  As of last week, the overall ­occupation rate of ­general medical wards at public hospitals was 111%. The rate at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kowloon was 124%, while at Pok Oi Hospital, Yuen Long, and Prince of Wales Hospital, Sha Tin, it was 122% and 120% ­respectively.  Dr Cheung Wai-lun, the Health Authority’s acting chief executive, said the flu outbreak this year was “unusual" and that “In the past two weeks, some 1,000 patients needed to be admitted to general medical wards of public hospitals every day. Usually, such a situation would last about two or three days and we would be able to cope with it. But this year, it lasted for more than 10 days,” he said.  Some hospitals had resorted to adding more beds, or offering a subsidy to get medical staff on holiday back to work. Non-urgent surgery had also been postponed. He warned the flu season could stretch beyond October and urged the sick to be patient.  The health authority announced an extra HK$20 million in spending to secure 48 beds at a private hospital over the next two months to cope with the crisis. That is on top of the extra 8,300 places offered at public general outpatient clinics.  Letters have been sent to all doctors from the Department of Health asking them to work part-time in the clinics outside their working hours, but fewer than 10 doctors have volunteered to work at overcrowded public hospitals on their days off.  A top infectious diseases expert has warned that the mutation of a dominant flu strain may be the factor behind the surge of cases this summer. Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, chair professor of Hong Kong University's microbiology department, said the dominant strain influenza A H3N2 in the city this summer might have mutated in a way that made vaccines used in the past two years ineffective.  This “antigenic variation” in the A(H3N2) virus was also recently found by Danish researchers. They concluded "low vaccine effectiveness" against this particular strain of the flu virus A(H3N2).  Official figures showed that close to 41 per cent of respiratory specimens taken by the authority last week tested positive for flu viruses, reaching a new high this year. The number of H3N2 virus samples tested with mutation had increased from 20 per cent in March to more than 35 per cent in May this year. At the same time, the effectiveness of the vaccines administered to the public late last year was diminishing – lasting about only six months.  It is not clear how many among the sick or have died involve Overseas Filipino Workers. Hong Kong has a huge number of foreign domestic helpers, mainly from the Philippines and Indonesia. But a recent facebook post showed a Filipino travelling from Israel via Hong Kong has died in a hospital there. The case is yet under investigation. See details below:  source: SCMP




Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam has called on the Hospital Authority to come up with urgent measures “very soon” as medical facilities grapple with a flu crisis that has left 208 people dead since May.

The unusually strong outbreak of summer flu was putting hospitals under pressure, with patients waiting for at least six hours to see doctors. Those being admitted for confinement after ­initial treatment took up to 15 hours to get a hospital bed.

As of last week, the overall ­occupation rate of ­general medical wards at public hospitals was 111%. The rate at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kowloon was 124%, while at Pok Oi Hospital, Yuen Long, and Prince of Wales Hospital, Sha Tin, it was 122% and 120% ­respectively.

Dr Cheung Wai-lun, the Health Authority’s acting chief executive, said the flu outbreak this year was “unusual" and that “In the past two weeks, some 1,000 patients needed to be admitted to general medical wards of public hospitals every day. Usually, such a situation would last about two or three days and we would be able to cope with it. But this year, it lasted for more than 10 days,” he said.

Some hospitals had resorted to adding more beds, or offering a subsidy to get medical staff on holiday back to work. Non-urgent surgery had also been postponed. He warned the flu season could stretch beyond October and urged the sick to be patient.
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam has called on the Hospital Authority to come up with urgent measures “very soon” as medical facilities grapple with a flu crisis that has left 208 people dead since May.  The unusually strong outbreak of summer flu was putting hospitals under pressure, with patients waiting for at least six hours to see doctors. Those being admitted for confinement after ­initial treatment took up to 15 hours to get a hospital bed.  As of last week, the overall ­occupation rate of ­general medical wards at public hospitals was 111%. The rate at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kowloon was 124%, while at Pok Oi Hospital, Yuen Long, and Prince of Wales Hospital, Sha Tin, it was 122% and 120% ­respectively.  Dr Cheung Wai-lun, the Health Authority’s acting chief executive, said the flu outbreak this year was “unusual" and that “In the past two weeks, some 1,000 patients needed to be admitted to general medical wards of public hospitals every day. Usually, such a situation would last about two or three days and we would be able to cope with it. But this year, it lasted for more than 10 days,” he said.  Some hospitals had resorted to adding more beds, or offering a subsidy to get medical staff on holiday back to work. Non-urgent surgery had also been postponed. He warned the flu season could stretch beyond October and urged the sick to be patient.  The health authority announced an extra HK$20 million in spending to secure 48 beds at a private hospital over the next two months to cope with the crisis. That is on top of the extra 8,300 places offered at public general outpatient clinics.  Letters have been sent to all doctors from the Department of Health asking them to work part-time in the clinics outside their working hours, but fewer than 10 doctors have volunteered to work at overcrowded public hospitals on their days off.  A top infectious diseases expert has warned that the mutation of a dominant flu strain may be the factor behind the surge of cases this summer. Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, chair professor of Hong Kong University's microbiology department, said the dominant strain influenza A H3N2 in the city this summer might have mutated in a way that made vaccines used in the past two years ineffective.  This “antigenic variation” in the A(H3N2) virus was also recently found by Danish researchers. They concluded "low vaccine effectiveness" against this particular strain of the flu virus A(H3N2).  Official figures showed that close to 41 per cent of respiratory specimens taken by the authority last week tested positive for flu viruses, reaching a new high this year. The number of H3N2 virus samples tested with mutation had increased from 20 per cent in March to more than 35 per cent in May this year. At the same time, the effectiveness of the vaccines administered to the public late last year was diminishing – lasting about only six months.  It is not clear how many among the sick or have died involve Overseas Filipino Workers. Hong Kong has a huge number of foreign domestic helpers, mainly from the Philippines and Indonesia. But a recent facebook post showed a Filipino travelling from Israel via Hong Kong has died in a hospital there. The case is yet under investigation. See details below:  source: SCMP
The number of flu cases in Hong Kong so far, compared to the total number of cases in 2016

The health authority announced an extra HK$20 million in spending to secure 48 beds at a private hospital over the next two months to cope with the crisis. That is on top of the extra 8,300 places offered at public general outpatient clinics.

Letters have been sent to all doctors from the Department of Health asking them to work part-time in the clinics outside their working hours, but fewer than 10 doctors have volunteered to work at overcrowded public hospitals on their days off.

The H3N2 Virus has posed a problem in the US and other countries in the past years.


A top infectious diseases expert has warned that the mutation of a dominant flu strain may be the factor behind the surge of cases this summer. Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, chair professor of Hong Kong University's microbiology department, said the dominant strain influenza A H3N2 in the city this summer might have mutated in a way that made vaccines used in the past two years ineffective.

This “antigenic variation” in the A(H3N2) virus was also recently found by Danish researchers. They concluded "low vaccine effectiveness" against this particular strain of the flu virus A(H3N2).

Official figures showed that close to 41 per cent of respiratory specimens taken by the authority last week tested positive for flu viruses, reaching a new high this year. The number of H3N2 virus samples tested with mutation had increased from 20 per cent in March to more than 35 per cent in May this year. At the same time, the effectiveness of the vaccines administered to the public late last year was diminishing – lasting about only six months.

It is not clear how many among the sick or have died involve Overseas Filipino Workers. Hong Kong has a huge number of foreign domestic helpers, mainly from the Philippines and Indonesia. But a recent facebook post showed a Filipino travelling from Israel via Hong Kong has died in a hospital there. The case is yet under investigation. See details below:




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