Flu peak passes after claiming 339 lives

Local | Mary Ann Benitez and Riley Chan 15 Aug 2017

Three children and 336 adults have died during the summer flu peak season, one of the worst in recent years, but the Hospital Authority announced the peak period is subsiding.

Of the adults who died, 58 percent had not been vaccinated against the flu (196) compared with 140 who got shots.

There was no information yesterday on whether the three children who died had been vaccinated but the Centre for Health Protection said in its latest surveillance report in the week ending August 9, 89.5 percent of 19 severe flu cases among those under 18 did not get the vaccine for the 2016-17 season.

The authority reported 15,485 flu cases from May 5 to August 8 during the summer peak. Of these, 484 cases were severe - in which patients were hospitalized in intensive care unit or died. They included 466 adults and three children.

Among the severe cases, 80 percent of patients had underlying illnesses. The most common was cardiovascular disease, accounting for 150 death cases.

"It's very rare for people to die solely from flu," said chief infection control officer Dominic Tsang Ngai- chong. "There is always more than one cause of death."

The elderly fatality rate was the highest, at 3.97 percent. It was followed by children aged four or below.

The dominant strain this summer peak is still seasonal H3N2 influenza, which has been circulating since it first emerged in Hong Kong in 2014, the center said.

The 2016-17 winter flu vaccine - also used for the summer peak for those who failed to get it - matched that of the Hong Kong H3N2 substrain, as well as the B Brisbane and B Phuket flu substrains. The other component is California H1N1, which emerged in 2009.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's vaccine effectiveness studies "for the influenza A(H3N2)- predominant 2016-2017 flu season showed that flu vaccination reduced the risk of getting sick and having to go the doctor because of flu by 42 percent overall, with vaccine providing better protection against influenza B viruses (56 percent) than against the most common influenza A(H3N2) viruses (34 percent)."

The flu season peaked in mid-July, with over 350 new cases daily. Cases have fallen to below 150 a day since August 3.

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