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Flu season expected to peak next week

05 January 2024


CHP officials issued the warning at yesterday's press conference

Government experts have urged the public to be more cautious of catching seasonal influenza and Covid-19, saying there are indications the spread of both virus-borne diseases will peak next week.

At a news conference, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection said coronavirus activity has increased, along with the number of people being admitted to hospitals with respiratory symptoms.


She urged those in high-risk groups like the elderly and people with disabilities and living in care homes to get vaccinated against COVID and the flu as soon as possible and to always wear masks in public areas.

Chuang said the percentage of with flu being admitted to public hospitals has reached 0.48, higher than the baseline level of 0.25. Those with influenza A virus H3 accounts for 79 percent of all cases, those with the B virus for 13 percent, while the remaining 8 percent had the H1 virus.


At the same press conference, Hospital Authority's Chief Manager Dr. Larry Lee said the occupancy rate in public hospitals has increased to near-capacity. Medical cases reached 116 percent of capacity, while those pediatric cases are at 92 percent.

But he assured that the authority has a lot of experience handling such pressure, given a similar surge in cases in the middle and end of last year.


Separately, a government statement said that the percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for seasonal flu at the CHP’s public health laboratory last week was 8.49 per cent, which was more than double compared with three weeks ago. This trend indicates seasonal flu may enter a peak period next week.

Chuang said it is difficult to predict when the flu season might wane.  "The usual duration of the influenza season in the past was maybe 8 weeks or 12 weeks, sometimes longer. So it is difficult to anticipate or predict the exact duration of the influenza season and also the severity," she said.


She also said that the coronavirus spread has increased, based on both sewage samples and specimens taken from people with Covid.

A new coronavirus subvariant, JN.1, which has been classified by the World Health Organization as a variant of concern - is said to be spreading in the city and is expected to replace XBB as the dominant variant.

Chuang said JN.1 has a higher transmissibility, but does not appear to cause more serious effects than other mutant strains. She also said that the XBB vaccine which is already available in the city, is also effective against it.

However, the government’s warning was sterner. “The activity of the SARS-CoV-2 virus generally increases in winter. With the higher transmissibility of the JN.1 variant, although the current evidence does not suggest JN.1 will cause a more severe disease, more local COVID-19 cases are anticipated. With more community infections, reports on severe cases and deaths will also increase,” its statement read.

But there is a bit of relief. Studies show that other respiratory viruses have been less active, while cases of pneumonia have dropped.

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