Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Hong Kong's Post-Holiday Flu Surge

Credit HK CHP












#13,158

After a month of very high (mostly influenza B) flu numbers, and the forced closure of all of Hong Kong's schools a week early for the Lunar New Year Holiday, we were beginning to see some subtle signs that their flu epidemic might have peaked, with Friday's average Hospital Occupancy rate and A&E Attendance numbers (see graphic below) unexpectedly having dropped sharply over a period of just a few days.

http://gia.info.gov.hk/general/201802/16/P2018021600287_278551_1_1518740538534.pdf

A 93% occupancy rate is a bit surprising because only 4 days earlier, I blogged about Hong Kong's Hospital Occupancy Rates Rising, with the average occupancy rate reaching  117%. 

Given the importance of the Lunar New Year Holiday in Asia, I suspect a lot of patients may have checked out of the hospital late last week in order to spend it with their families, while others - who maybe should have gone to the hospital - may have put that off until after the New Year.

On Saturday the occupancy rate rose to 97%, on Sunday to 104%, and by Monday was back up to 111%. 
Today's numbers show the average occupancy rate to have reached 119%, with Pok Oi Hospital in the New Territories West dealing with a whopping 138% occupancy rate.  That's an impressive average jump of 26% since Friday.


http://gia.info.gov.hk/general/201802/20/P2018022000249_278644_1_1519090442798.pdf

Some of this sudden rise could also be due to a spike in influenza transmission, propelled  by the traditional large family gatherings, travel, and celebrations, that are part and parcel to the Chinese New Year's celebration. 
With an incubation period of 2 - 4 days, the timing is about right.
Today's South China Morning Post carries the following headline, with a the dismal expectation that this winter's flu epidemic could last until late May.

Hospitals see rush of patients amid flu surge and end of Lunar New Year break, resulting in waits of over eight hours
There remains a desperate need for flu vaccines across the city, with the winter flu peak season expected to last until the end of May 
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 3:05pm


Although Hong Kong and China have been reporting primarily influenza B this winter, both H1N1 and H3N2 are in the mix as well.  Today Hong Kong's CHP reports on a severe pediatric H1N1 case, in a child who arrived from the Mainland last week.

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is today (February 20) investigating a case of severe paediatric influenza A infection.
      
     A 7-year-old boy, who lives in the Mainland and has had good past health, travelled to Hong Kong on February 15 and presented with fever, cough and muscle pain since February 18. He developed seizures the next day and was admitted to Queen Mary Hospital. His nasopharyngeal aspirate tested positive for influenza A (H1) virus upon laboratory testing. The clinical diagnosis was influenza A infection complicated with encephalopathy. He is now in a stable condition.
 
     Initial enquiries revealed that the patient had not received seasonal influenza vaccination for the current season. His home contacts and travel collaterals are asymptomatic so far. Investigations are ongoing.
 
     Meanwhile, in view of the continuous high level of seasonal influenza activity locally and the end of the Lunar New Year holiday for schools soon, the CHP today issued letters to schools to appeal for heightened vigilance and reinforcement of preventive measures to mitigate the impact of seasonal influenza.

(Continue . . . )

Most Kong Kong schools remain closed for the Lunar New Year's holiday, but are expected to resume classes on Monday, 26 February.

We'll get the next Hong Kong Flu Express on Thursday, which should tell us more about the post-holiday impact of this year's flu season.

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