According to experts from the Hainan Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, monitoring data shows a rapid increase in the level of influenza virus activity in Hainan Province recently. As we enter the flu season in 2023, it has arrived nearly a month earlier than in previous years.
According to Dr. Zhang Ling, Deputy Director of the Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Institute at the Hainan Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the main strain of flu virus currently prevalent in Hainan Province is the A/H1N1 subtype, which is combined with the A/H3N2 subtype.
According to reports, over the past three years, the A/H1N1 subtype has not been prevalent in China, while the A/H3N2 and B subtypes of the flu have not caused large nationwide outbreaks, resulting in a general decrease in public awareness of flu prevention and control.
This has led to a low vaccination rate against the flu, especially among children, and a reduction in pre-existing immunity to the A/H1N1 subtype of flu virus.
According to Dr. Zhang these factors indicate that the intensity of seasonal flu in Hainan Province this year may be higher than in previous years and it is therefore essential to raise public awareness of flu prevention and control measures and encourage vaccination of the most vulnerable groups to reduce the spread of the virus and protect public health.
Dr. Zhang Ling said that the current outbreak of flu in Hainan Province is mainly affecting the 0-14 age group, with the majority of cases occurring in schools and childcare institutions. During the flu season, parents should be highly vigilant if anyone in their household has had or been in contact with flu-like symptoms.
If flu-like symptoms occur, it is important to avoid attending school or work while sick, and to wear a mask when in contact with family members. Infected individuals should return to school or work only after their temperature has returned to normal and other flu-like symptoms have disappeared for 48 hours or as advised by their doctor.
According to the World Health Organization’s estimates, seasonal influenza can cause 3-5 million severe cases and 290,000-650,000 respiratory-related deaths globally each year. The incidence rate of childhood influenza is about 20-30%, and during high prevalence seasons, the annual infection rate of childhood influenza can reach around 50%, higher than that of adults. Children under 5 years of age, especially those under 2 years of age, are at high risk for influenza viruses. In addition, high-risk groups for influenza include not only children, but also those over 60 years of age, patients with chronic diseases and pregnant women.
The most effective way to prevent the disease is vaccination. Safe and effective vaccines are available and have been used for more than 60 years. Immunity from vaccination wanes over time so annual vaccination is recommended to protect against influenza. Injected inactivated influenza vaccines are most commonly used throughout the world.
Among healthy adults, influenza vaccine provides protection, even when circulating viruses do not exactly match the vaccine viruses. However, among the elderly, influenza vaccination may be less effective in preventing illness but reduces severity of disease and incidence of complications and deaths. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk of influenza complications, and for people who live with or care for the people at high risk.
WHO recommends annual vaccination for:
- pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
- children aged between 6 months to 5 years
- elderly individuals (aged more than 65 years)
- individuals with chronic medical conditions
- health-care workers.
Apart from vaccination and antiviral treatment, the public health management includes personal protective measures like:
- Regular hand washing with proper drying of the hands
- Good respiratory hygiene – covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, using tissues and disposing of them correctly
- Early self-isolation of those feeling unwell, feverish and having other symptoms of influenza
- Avoiding close contact with sick people
- Avoiding touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth
Related article: Click here to keep up to date with Health and Welfare updates
If you would like to make a comment, compliment or complaint about any aspect of living or working in Hainan Island, we’d love to hear from you. We pass all communications on to the relevant services. Please keep it polite and to the point.