Outbreak of Deadly Influenza in Preschool in Hong Kong

  Symptoms of influenza, details of influenza vaccination in Singapore, how to prevent influenza

According to a press release by the Centre of Health Protection in Hong Kong, 450 (307 deaths) severe influenza infection cases were reported from 5th May 2017 to 2nd August 2017, this includes 19 cases of severe pediatric influenza-associated complications.

In a separated report released by the Hong Kong authority on 19th July, about half of the outbreaks (53 per cent) were reported by residential care homes for the elderly, followed by about one-fifth (21 per cent) from kindergartens and child care centres.


What is influenza?

Also known as the flu, influenza is an infection caused by influenza viruses. It is different from the common cold and it is usually more severe than the common cold.


Symptoms of influenza

Symptoms of influenza include the following:

•    Fever

•    Dry, chesty cough

•    Sore throat

•    Headache

•    Chills

•    Runny or stuffed nose

•    Muscle or body aches

•    Fatigue

•    Loss of appetite

Some people, especially children may experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, but this is not common. Some children may also experience pain in their ears.


Influenza can result in pneumonia, hospitalisation or even death, especially in populations at higher risk of developing influenza-associated complications. Pregnant women, children aged 6 months to less than 5 years have been identified by the Ministry of Health of Singapore as groups with a higher risk of developing the complication of influenza. 


How does Influenza spread?

Influenza is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets propelled by coughing and sneezing. In preschools, many children have not learned to cover their mouths with tissue paper or handkerchief when they cough or sneeze. When they cough or sneeze, thousands of droplets, many which carry the viruses, are expelled from the throat to the air. Other children may get infected as they breathe in the viruses.

The influenza viruses can spread out easily through indirect contact between children. Influenza can also be passed on through contact with contaminated surfaces such as toys, tables, chairs that have been recently handled by someone who is infected with influenza and then touching the nose or mouth.


Influenza vaccination

Annual influenza vaccination is recommended to protect against influenza, especially for individuals belonging to populations at higher risk of complications of influenza.


FAQ of Influenza vaccination

1. Is it safe for pregnant women and their developing babies to get a flu shot?

According to the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention, United State. The flu shot has been given safely to millions of pregnant women over many years. There is a large body of scientific studies that support the safety of flu vaccine in pregnant women and their babies.


2. What is the cost of influenza vaccine?

According to the CDC Singapore, the price of pediatric influenza vaccine ranges $15.77 to $21.22 per dose.



3. Can I use Medisave for influenza vaccination ?

Yes, the use of Medisave will be allowed for influenza vaccination for persons at higher risk of developing influenza-related complications.


4. Why is annual vaccination is needed?

First, the circulating strains of flu viruses are changing constantly; Second, the body’s immune response from vaccination decline over time, so an annual vaccination is needed.


How to prevent influenza?

1.    Practicing good personal hygiene can help to prevent the spread of influenza. Teach your child to wash hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water, especially before touching your eyes, nose or mouth

2.    Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too. If your child is sick, do not send him or her to preschool, that can help to prevent spreading the illness to other children.

3.    Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing.

4.    Avoiding crowded places if you or your child are unwell.

5.    Using a serving spoon when sharing food at meal times.

6.    Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.


Source of Information

1. Influenza: https://www.moh.gov.sg/content/moh_web/home/diseases_and_conditions/i/influenza.html

2. Preventing the Flu: Good Health Habits Can Help Stop Germs


3. Flu Vaccine Safety and Pregnancy


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