Hong Kong influenza death toll at 228 after 18 die in one day
Controller says still a high number of serious cases - 'flu surge will remain for some time.'

Eighteen more people suffering from influenza died in Hong Kong on Tuesday - the most in a single day since the epidemic began in January.

The government said high-risk groups such as the elderly and chronically ill would be given priority for a vaccine against the flu strain causing most of the deaths, H3N2, the South China Morning Post reported Wednesday.

The vaccine is expected to be available in April.

Authorities said that some 322 serious flu cases have been reported since the start of the year. The toll for the year after Tuesday's deaths now stands at 228.

Controller Dr Leung Ting-hung said there was still a high number of serious cases, according to the report.

"The flu surge will remain for some time," he added.

But fewer exhibiting symptoms had tested positive for flu in laboratory checks this week, with the percentage falling to about 30 percent this week from 34 last week.

Health officials said those most susceptible would be given the H3N2 vaccine first when it arrived in the city, the report said.

Dr Chow Chun-bong, chairman of the vaccine committee, said: "Most deaths are elderly patients, aged 85 or above … so we'll give priority for the vaccine according to age."

Authorities said it was necessary to give priority for the vaccine to elderly patients as supply was limited.

"Originally these vaccines were destined for the southern hemisphere. Supply for the northern hemisphere is limited," Leung said, the newspaper reported. Leung added that the stocks due to arrive in April would not be enough to meet demand in the city.

Medical staff would be a lower priority, since there was not a huge problem with outbreaks in hospitals.

"Health-care workers are not considered to be among the high-risk group," a health official was quoted as saying in the report.

People working in aged-care homes or intensive care units would be encouraged to get vaccinated.

The health minister, Ko Wing-man, warned that the current outbreak was not over yet, even if there were fewer people testing positive for the flu virus, the report said.

"The drop in positive samples could be because more people are leaving the city for the holiday," Ko said, urging hospitals to prepare for more patients when people returned from holiday, when wards were likely to fill up again.

Last Modified: 2015-02-18 17:43:11
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