Flu infection rate seen rising in both south and north China

Cai Wenjun
The positive rate of flu virus detection in both southern and northern Chinese provinces has kept rising, with 119 outbreaks of flu-like cases, national health authorities said.
Cai Wenjun

The positive rate of flu virus detection in both southern and northern Chinese provinces has kept rising; the most prevalent strain being type A flu with H3N2 sub-type followed by type B with Victoria sub-type, national health authorities said on Thursday.

The nation reported 119 outbreaks of flu-like cases, the latest weekly report of the Chinese National Influenza Center released on Thursday said.

According to the World Health Organization, flu infects 5 to 10 percent of adults and 20 to 30 percent of children across the world each year, causing over 5 million serious cases and 650,000 deaths.

About 88,000 Chinese die of respiratory diseases caused by flu annually, covering 8.2 percent of total respiratory deaths.

The arrival of autumn and winter is the peak season for flu. Health authorities said over 90 percent of children's flu infection takes place in schools and kindergartens. The prevalence of flu in children can be 30 to 50 percent in the peak season, while close contact at home causes 20 to 40 percent of secondary infection.

Dr Zeng Mei, director of the infection department of the Children's Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai, noted that respiratory diseases spread quickly and are difficult to prevent and control."

"Children's hospitals are under strong pressure during the peak flu season. So improving public awareness is important," said Zeng, whose hospital has teamed up with other medical institutes to issue the first guidance on flu prevention and treatment for children, providing instructions for hospitals, schools and facilities where children gather.

"Hospitals, schools and families should have more understanding on flu, especially pertaining to children and the elderly," she added. "Early prevention, diagnosis and treatment are important. The golden time for anti-virus treatment is 48 hours. It is important to visit the hospital for checks and anti-virus medication in time."

Zeng was speaking at a ceremony during the ongoing 6th China International Import Expo, where Roche Pharmaceuticals China signed cooperation agreements with seven domestic medical facilities and drug retailers to boost standard flu treatment for children and enhance the availability of flu drugs.

In addition to proper anti-virus medication, experts highlighted the importance of vaccination among the physically weak population, especially the elderly, for infectious disease prevention and better life quality.

By 2035, China will have over 400 million seniors, according to the National Health Commission. Senior medical care and education are required for a healthy China.

About two thirds of Chinese elderly have at least one chronic disease and over one third have at least two. Elderly with chronic diseases are more vulnerable to infectious diseases and will have more serious condition and slower recovery after they are infected.

Vaccinations for flu, pneumonia and shingles are the mostly recommended by disease prevention and control centers, which noted that Chinese seniors' understanding and awareness on the importance of vaccines is low.

Shingles, for example, is more common in people who have chronic conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Many older persons can experience issues such as neuralgia as a result of the procedure. The discomfort might linger for months or even years, doctors explained.

Health officials said that grassroots medical facilities should take up the major role in educating and serving the elderly on vaccinations.

"General physicians at our center provide health evaluation for residents regularly, detecting their risk of diseases and offering health instructions," said Peng Derong, director of the Jing'an District Pengpu Community Neighborhood Health Center.

"We suggest that eligible elderly take vaccinations for flu, pneumonia and shingles in time. By promoting the concept that prevention is more effective than treatment, we are improving the vaccination rate among the elderly in the community to prevent common infectious diseases."

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