Although there were some subtle signs that Hong Kong's winter flu epidemic might be getting close to peaking in last week's Hong Kong Flu Express Wk 5: Flu Remains At A High Level report, today's hospital occupancy rates from the hospital authority show a noticeable jump in admissions over this time last week.
Last Monday, the HA reported 5323 A&E attendances and 972 admissions giving an overall occupancy rate of 111%, while today's report shows 5772 A&E visits (up 8%), 1021 admissions (up 5%) and an overall occupancy rate of 117%.
Last week, in an attempt to tamp down their influenza B epidemic, HK officials decided to Close Schools & Call For Stringent NPIs To Combat Flu.
NPI's (Nonpharmaceutical interventions) are steps other than vaccines and medications that can slow the spread of an influenza (or other) outbreak. Measures like social distancing, hand hygiene, staying home when sick, avoiding crowds, wearing a mask if you are sick, and even the closure of schools or other public venues.In last year's Community Pandemic Mitigation's Primary Goal : Flattening The Curve we looked at the primary goal of the HHS/CDC's 2017 revised Community Mitigation Guidelines to Prevent Pandemic Influenza - which is to slow the spread of any severe outbreak, in hopes of limiting its impact on hospitals, essential workers, infrastructure, and ultimately reducing the death toll.
With the Lunar New Year (Jan 16th) fast approaching, and nearly 6 million people expected to enter/leave Hong Kong between Feb 15th to 21st, the potential for the upcoming holiday travel season to exacerbate this epidemic cannot be dismissed.On Friday the Hong Kong's Department of Health announced they had procured additional seasonal flu vaccines which should be available in the next couple of weeks, while the Hospital authority - for the second time in ten days - announced Additional measures for alleviating winter surge demand pressure, including the infusion of another 400 Million HKD to cover expenses.
The saving grace to this year's epidemic in Hong Kong is that it is primary due to influenza B, which us generally better protected against by the seasonal flu vaccine, and that has little or no chance of reassorting with any of the avian influenza A (H7N9, H5N6, H5N8) viruses currently circulating in China.