As we approach the summer months, seasonal influenza activity drops to a low level. The incident rate remains low globally. In our region, both Influenza A (H3N2) and Influenza B co-circulate. Globally, the H1N1 strain of Influenza A predominates, followed by Influenza B and the H2N2 strain of Influenza A. Detailed information can be found in the figure below:
No new case of the Avian Flu H7N9 has surfaced since May. There have been 132 total cases with 37 fatalities; all were in China. Globally, there were 2 new cases of the Avian Flu H5N1 since April. The total number of cases reached 630 with 375 fatalities. The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome caused by a novel Corona virus reached 77 cases with 40 deaths. So far most of the cases occurred in Saudi Arabia.
While it seems we are taking a break from the spread of all kinds of influenza, it will not be long before the viruses start to spread again. Prior epidemiological studies indicate two Flu peak seasons in Hong Kong every year; winter and summer. It is very likely that we will see another peak around August. Also, when autumn comes, the migratory birds will start making their southerly journey and in the process will spread the H5N1 virus along the way. The H7N9 virus might also follow the same pattern. We can never overemphasize the need to practice good personal and environmental hygiene at all times. These preventive measures can help avoid infection by all of the infectious agents mentioned above. Furthermore, it is strongly advised that we practice these precautionary measures routinely as a matter of habit as it will be difficult to break bad habits and try to adopt healthy measures only in times of need.
Once again, here are the precautionary measures:
- Avoid direct contact with birds and poultry or their droppings.
Wash your hands thoroughly with liquid soap and water immediately if you have been in contact with poultry, birds or their droppings.
- Maintain good personal hygiene.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Keep hands clean and wash hands properly. Wash hands frequently with liquid soap, especially before eating; touching the mouth, nose, or eyes; handling food; after going to toilet; touching public installations or equipment such as escalator handrails, elevator control panels or door knobs.
Cover nose and mouth with tissue paper while sneezing or coughing. Dispose soiled tissue papers properly into a lidded rubbish bin. Wash hands with liquid soap and water afterwards.
- Build up good body resistance and have a healthy lifestyle. This can be achieved through a balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate rest, reducing stress and no smoking.
- Poultry and eggs should be thoroughly cooked before eating.
- Maintain good environmental hygiene.
Maintain good indoor ventilation.
Home should be cleaned thoroughly at least once per week with 1 in 99 diluted household bleach (mixing 10 ml of bleach containing 5.25% sodium hypochlorite with 990 ml of water).
Avoid going to crowded places with poor ventilation if you are feeling unwell.
- Avoid touching birds, poultry or their droppings, and visiting poultry markets or farms when travelling outside Hong Kong.
- Travellers if feeling unwell when outside Hong Kong, especially if having a fever or cough, should wear a mask and inform the hotel staff or tour leader and seek medical advice at once.
- Travellers returning from affected areas with avian influenza outbreaks should consult doctors promptly if they have flu-like symptoms, and inform the doctor of the travel history and wear a mask to help prevent spread of the disease.
For more information
Please visit the website of the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health at www.chp.gov.hk
or call the Department of Health’s 24-hour Health Education Hotline at 2833 0111.