Friday, March 14, 2008

The Flu Situation in Hong Kong

Many parents have been asking me about the flu situation in Hong Kong in which 3 school children have died so far. As it is the school holidays, there are many who are heading to Hong Kong for holidays and want to know if they should vaccinate themselves against the flu.

MOH has a recent press release on the influenza situation in Hong Kong and Singapore. You can read it by clicking here.

Here is what I think are the important things to note:

1. The influenza season this year is no different from the previous years and the strains of influenza viruses are the usual ones and not the dreaded Bird Flu strain or SARS virus. We know the usual influenza strains can have severe effects on the young children, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses, so although the death of the children is tragic, it does not signal that we are dealing with a situation like SARS all over again.

2. There has not been any increase in the number of flu cases in Singapore and the ones that have been detected are the expected influenza strains. These are the Influenza Type A H3N2, H1N1 and also Type B strains. These are the strains that are covered by the latest Flu vaccinations. (Remember that Bird Flu is the H5N1 strain)

3. Influenza is a self limiting illness in the healthy adults, so there is no need to rush to get yourselves vaccinated. However, the MOH does advise that those who require vaccinations are
  • Elderly persons above 65 years of age
  • Children from 6 mths to 5 years of age
  • Persons with heart, lung, kidney problems or diabetics
  • Pregnant women in their 2nd and 3rd trimesters
4. The question that most parent pose now is "How long does it take for the vaccine to take effect?" Well the short answer is around 2 weeks. Bear in mind that even if the vaccination was given a few months before, the protection level is still only 70-80%. There is no hard and fast rule, but my advise would be that if you can avoid going to a place like Hong Kong where it is the peak flu season now, then don't go. If you have to go, there is no harm giving your child the influenza vaccine even if it is less than 2 weeks before your trip.

Click here to my previous post on Influenza

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