According to news reports, influenza has become more prevalent than COVID-19 in Beijing as of February 2023 with the most common subtype of influenza detected being H1N1.
Some schools across the country have temporarily suspend face-to-face classes as a result of scattered clusters of COVID-19 cases or H1N1 influenza, leading experts to call for calm and reassuring people not to worry.
A primary school in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, reported that 10 students had tested positive for COVID-19 in the same class by Sunday, resulting in a four-day suspension of classes, according to the education bureau of Xihu district.
A class in a Primary School Attached to the Xicheng Foreign Language School in Beijing also turned to online teaching for four days because of an increasing number of students with fevers since last weekend.
Test results showed that students were infected with influenza. A source from the school said that since classes on the same floor use the same toilet, there was a risk of further spread of infection, so students had been asked to stay at home for a few days.
On February 22, the Beijing Centre for Disease Control and Prevention released a weekly epidemic report. The report showed that from February 13th to 19th, the number of reported cases of influenza, surpassed the number of COVID-19 infection cases.
At present, the viruses that cause influenza seasonal epidemics are the H1N1 and H3N2 subtypes of influenza A virus and the Victoria and Yamagata strains of influenza B virus.
The H1N1 virus is a combination of viruses from pigs, birds and humans that causes disease in humans. During the 2009-10 flu season, H1N1 caused the respiratory infection in humans that was commonly referred to as swine flu. Because so many people around the world got sick, in 2009 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the H1N1 flu to be a pandemic.
The symptoms of H1N1 flu are similar to those of seasonal flu, such as fever, cough, sore throat, body aches and fatigue.
The Victoria and Yamagata strains of influenza B virus are two lineages of influenza B virus that have different antigenicity, meaning they can trigger different immune responses in humans. They are named after the strains B/Victoria/2/87 and B/Yamagata/16/88 that were first identified in those regions. They have been co-circulating globally since at least 2001.
According to Zhang Qi, director of the paediatric department of China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing, “there is a mild increase in the number of fever cases among children,” adding that after the new semester began, fever patients rose from about 10 to 20 people a day to 50 to 80 a day.
“Children are one of the most vulnerable groups for being infected. Parents should encourage their children to wear masks, avoid crowded places and develop healthy lifestyles,” she said, suggesting children with fever be quarantined at home to protect others from being infected.
Wei Sheng, professor of epidemiology at Southern University of Science and Technology, told People’s Daily-affiliated Health Times that there was no need for the public to panic.
“It’s an ordinary response for schools to suspend classes due to infectious diseases such as measles, chickenpox, influenza and foot-and-mouth disease, in order to prevent further spread,” Wei said.
On Wednesday, the Beijing Education Commission issued a notice on recent fever cases, saying that based on daily health management and infectious disease prevention and control arrangements, schools should focus on strengthening the implementation of morning and afternoon inspection, tracking absence due to illness, and improving home-school communication.
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