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HK: LCQ20: Prevent and control influenza outbreaks

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  • HK: LCQ20: Prevent and control influenza outbreaks

    Hong Kong (HKSAR) - Following is a question by the Hon Frederick Fung and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (December 14):

    Question:

    It has been reported that the health authorities in the United States earlier expressed concern about a new H3N2 influenza (flu) virus mutated from H1N1 human swine flu virus, pointing that this flu variant, which combines the genes from the viruses of ordinary human flu, H5N1 avian flu and H1N1 human swine flu, can be transmitted among humans, and there is a possibility of a major outbreak.In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

    (a) whether the authorities have approached the overseas health authorities concerned and the World Health Organisation to seek the latest information about the aforesaid new flu virus; if they have, of the details (including the characteristics of the aforesaid new flu virus, mode of transmission and spreading rate, symptoms as compared with those of ordinary flu, possible complications, methods of treatment, as well as comparison with the human swine flu epidemic which broke out and spread in Mexico in 2009, etc.); and

    (b) of the mechanism currently in place for comprehensively monitoring the possible appearance of any new flu variant; whether the authorities have any measure (e.g. any plan to specify the aforesaid new flu as a statutory notifiable disease, etc.) in place at present to cope with the possible major outbreak of the aforesaid new flu; and whether they have formulated any contingency plan for the purposes of perfecting the mechanism for the prevention and control of flu, disseminating information, flexibly deploying and purchasing medical resources, organising and coordinating the work of various government departments in combating epidemics, strengthening public health education and immunisation, etc.; if they have, of the details?

    Reply:

    President,

    Following the establishment of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) in 2004, the Government has established a comprehensive surveillance system that monitors influenza activity in the community.The system includes laboratory surveillance and sentinel surveillance networks which cover childcare centres, kindergartens, residential care homes for the elderly, Hospital Authority out-patient clinics, clinics of private practitioners and Chinese medicine practitioners.Moreover, the authorities have been working closely with local universities to gather expertise and experience from various specialties in order to formulate strategies and measures for the prevention and control of influenza.

    In monitoring the latest global situation of influenza, the Government has also been collaborating closely with health authorities such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Ministry of Health of China and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States (US).In the regional context, the Government has established a direct communication mechanism with the relevant authorities of Guangdong Province and Macao.This ensures that the three places can expeditiously and effectively exchange important information about influenza outbreaks, and contingency measures can be taken to reduce the chance of outbreaks.

    As far as seasonal influenza is concerned, it should be noted that serious influenza infections can occur even in healthy individuals, and that influenza vaccines are safe and effective.Therefore, the authorities encourage all members of the public to consult their family doctors to receive seasonal influenza vaccination for personal protection.On the other hand, the Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases under CHP will take into account a variety of scientific factors, including the local disease burden and international experience, before recommending priority target groups for seasonal influenza vaccination.Priority target groups recommended for seasonal influenza vaccination in the 2011/12 season include children aged between 6 months and less than 6 years, persons aged 50 years or above, pregnant women, pig farmers and pig-slaughtering industry personnel etc.

    ...


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