The Hong Kong Center for Health Protection (CHP) has warned that the winter influenza season will arrive soon, as there has been an increase in local flu cases in the past two weeks.
In a government release on Wednesday, the CHP advised children, the elderly and those with underlying illnesses to get their flu shots as soon as possible, as it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop in the body after vaccination.
The percentage of seasonal influenza viruses among respiratory specimens received by the CHP increased from 3.93% in the week ending December 16 to 6.02% and 9.32% respectively in the following two weeks.
The viruses were predominantly influenza B.
The CHP also asked school administrators to stay alert for seasonal influenza as classes resumed after the Christmas and New Year holidays.
In neighboring Guangdong province in mainland China, the winter flu season has already arrived. The number of flu cases there has been increasing over the past few weeks, and surveillance indicators showed that influenza activity was higher than in the same period in recent years.
As Hong Kong faces the flu season, patients who are seriously ill may have a hard time securing beds at public hospitals in the coming weeks.
The number of emergency cases at public hospitals on Tuesday hit 6,554, while the occupancy rate of all 17 public hospitals was over 100%, according to figures released by the Hospital Authority.
Tseung Kwan O Hospital in the New Territories had the worst occupancy rate at 131% on Tuesday, followed by United Christian Hospital in Kowloon at 129% and Tuen Mun Hospital in the New Territories at 126%.
Apple Daily reported that temporary beds were filling the corridors and every available space, including some storage space, in United Christian Hospital.