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Hong Kong Enters Flu Season
The Epoch Times
10/14/2004



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Hong Kong recently entered its flu season, with increases in those catching the virus. The Hong Kong government plans to give free flu shots to seniors and chronically ill patients. By the end of this year, they will have ordered 220,000 vaccines.
Hong Kong’s Department of Health revealed that in September, 37 out of 1,000 patients received by state-run hospitals and private clinics suffered from the flu during the first week and by the third week, the number increased to 52. In order to prepare for the upcoming peak of the flu season from January to March of next year, the Department of Health and Hospital Authority will give flu shots to seniors over 65, the handicapped, chronically ill patients, workers handling livestock and live poultry and medical personnel in state-run hospitals. According to the department head, Lin Bingen, Department of Health plans to give 200,000-250,000 flu shots free of charge.

“The senior residents in residential compounds will continue to receive shots, starting from November,” Lin continued, “Our purpose is to give shots to people who have weak immune systems, and those who are likely to develop complications from the flu. We also offer shots to mentally ill patients who lack the ability to take care of their own health.”

The president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, Cai Jian, indicated that in August, the number of hospital visits for the flu was 20 percent higher than the average rate. “Giving flu shots to seniors and the high-risk population is done world-wide in order to prevent the flu and pneumonia,” explained Cai.

The Department of Health has ordered 220,000 shots, and will adjust the amount as needed. The director of Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection, Zeng Haohui, said, “The government cannot give everyone the flu shot. Hong Kong people are very independent, so they won’t rely solely on the government. Our target is the vulnerable population, including the poor and those who cannot leave their residences. We will take care of these people. Those who have private doctors and good social connections are encouraged to continue working with private hospitals and clinics.”

Although children of 6-23 months are not on the list to receive free flu shots, Zeng advised that they receive their shots in private clinics, saying, “During the flu season, a higher proportion of children between six to 23 months become hospitalized compared with children of other age groups.”

Zeng stressed that today’s flu shots are mainly targeting Fujian Type-A flu virus, and are not used as poultry and livestock vaccines for epidemic prevention.

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