Severe paediatric Influenza A case prompts health authorities to urge influenza vigilance and vaccination

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27th November 2023 – (Hong Kong) The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health has launched an investigation into a case of severe pediatric influenza A infection, emphasizing the importance of vigilance against influenza within the community. As the 2023/24 seasonal influenza vaccination programs have commenced, the CHP is urging the public to avail themselves of the free seasonal influenza vaccination (SIV) to enhance their protection during the upcoming influenza season.

The case involves a 13-year-old boy with a previously healthy medical history. On 22nd November, he developed symptoms of fever, cough, and sore throat, prompting him to seek medical attention at Tin Shui Wai Hospital and subsequently from a private doctor. Due to the worsening of his symptoms, he was admitted today to the paediatric intensive care unit at Hong Kong Children’s Hospital for further treatment. Laboratory testing confirmed the presence of influenza A (H3) virus in his respiratory specimen. The clinical diagnosis indicates influenza A infection complicated with shock, and he is currently in a critical condition.

Preliminary investigations by the CHP have revealed that the patient had not received the seasonal influenza vaccination for this year and had not travelled during the incubation period. Presently, no symptoms have been observed in the individuals who had close contact with the patient at home. The CHP’s investigations are ongoing to determine any additional details.

A spokesman for the CHP emphasized, “Influenza can cause severe illnesses even in individuals who are generally healthy. The seasonal influenza vaccination is one of the most effective preventive measures against seasonal influenza and its associated complications. It significantly reduces the risk of hospitalization and influenza-related fatalities. The SIV is recommended for all individuals aged 6 months or above, except those with known contraindications. Individuals at higher risk, such as the elderly and children, should receive the vaccine early. As it takes approximately two weeks to develop antibodies, the public is advised to receive the SIV early to ensure protection throughout the influenza season. Further information on the vaccination schemes can be found on the CHP’s official website.”