Experts call on high-risk groups to get flu shots now

 

The third child to succumb to the flu this year died at Eastern Hospital

Fifteen medical groups, along with some lawmakers,
have posted a statement online urging those in high-risk groups, particularly
young children and the elderly, to get vaccinated against the flu as soon as
possible to avoid the bug, and become at risk for fatal complications.

Among the signatories in the statement posted
yesterday were the Hong Kong Paediatric Society, the Obstetrical and
Gynaecological Society of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Geriatrics Society as well as
lawmakers David Lam and Rebecca Chan.

The statement came days after Hong Kong health
authorities issued a similar call following the death of a third child from the
virus this year, warning that more severe cases of respiratory diseases might
be in the offing.

The latest fatality was an unvaccinated
four-year-old girl who was infected with influenza A and died at Pamela Youde Nethersole
Eastern Hospital on April 29.

Two weeks earlier, two other girls, aged eight and
six, also died after coming down with the flu, while another three-year-old
girl was in critical condition. Eighteen other children who mostly did not get
the flu shot, also developed severe flu complications.

Before the pandemic and last year, no more than two
children died from the flu during the peak periods.

The signatories said children are often in close
contact at school, so they are more likely to catch and spread respiratory viruses
like the flu, and then infect other high-risk people in their households.

The statement added that the flu could lead to a
child contracting severe acute necrotising encephalitis, a disease that leads
to extensive multi-organ damage and neurological deficits, or even death.

Apart from children, those at high risk of serious
complications from influenza include the elderly and pregnant mothers, and
they, should be vaccinated immediately if they haven’t done so yet.

Also last Tuesday, the Centre for Health Protection
warned that the dominant flu virus strain might change for a second time given
the frequency of travel by residents. This could also extend the flu season
that is already longer than usual.

A senior medical officer at CHP assured the public
that the flu vaccine is safe and effective, and could reduce the risk of
hospitalization by up to 60 percent.

According to the latest figures, about 20 percent of
residents at elderly homes and nearly half of children and those aged 65 and
above, had not yet received the flu shot.

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