Flu fears over schoolgirl's death

Local | Riley Chan 1 Nov 2017

Health authorities are trying to establish whether the death of a Heep Yunn School Primary Five student could be flu-related.

The girl, surnamed Lau, aged about 10, is reported to have suffered from acute septicemia and pneumonia after catching the flu.

In a circular sent to parents, the school said Lau died on Sunday midnight. It did not specify the cause, but stated that a team has been formed to counsel students.

"The school has set up a crisis management team following the death of the student. Educational psychologists, teachers and social workers will provide emotional support to students if needed," the school in Kowloon City said in the circular.

The girl fell sick last Monday and saw a doctor the next day. She went to a private hospital on Wednesday where she was admitted until she was referred to a public hospital for an emergency operation on Thursday, according to the circular.

The school refused to comment on the incident yesterday, citing privacy issues.

A spokesman for the Centre for Health Protection spokesman said it had approached the school regarding the issue, and no outbreak of infectious disease had been reported there so far.

Flu activity in Hong Kong currently is at a low level.

Infectious disease specialist Joseph Tsang Kay-yan said it is very common for the flu virus to trigger secondary bacterial infections, such as pneumonia.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Flu virus infection of the respiratory tract can trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body and can lead to sepsis, the body's life-threatening response to infection."

Tsang urged the public to receive the flu vaccine ahead of the winter.

"People should still get vaccinated even though there was an alleged vaccine mismatch before," he said. "Regardless of the coverage, there is still a cross-protection effect."

The government procured 460,000 doses of vaccine for the winter flu vaccination program that began on October 18.

It contains the Hong Kong H3N2- like virus based on the World Health Organization recommendation in February for the northern hemisphere, in which Hong Kong falls.

But a WHO meeting in Melbourne in September decided that for the southern hemisphere's 2018 flu season, the vaccine mix should do away with the Hong Kong strain, and replace it with the Singapore-like H3N2 virus which emerged in the city-state in 2016.

The move had put many in fear, as the recent summer flu peak season, the fiercest on record, killed 431 people including three children.

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