Via the South China Morning Post: Flu severity underestimated, doctor claims. Excerpt:
Health authorities underestimate the pervasiveness of serious influenza cases in the city because only those admitted to intensive care units are considered severe, a University of Hong Kong microbiologist says.
The scientist, Dr Ho Pak-leung, a clinical associate professor at the university's department of microbiology, predicted more serious outbreaks of flu during the Lunar New Year holiday next month.
This comes as flu outbreaks were reported in 68 schools and aged-care homes last week, affecting dozens of students and elderly as the city enters the height of influenza season.
Thirty-seven patients with viruses had died this year as of Thursday, with 78 serious cases still under intensive care. During one week earlier this month, 247 infections and 21 deaths were recorded, according to the Health Department.
But Ho said figures could be higher as many flu patients' conditions were severe enough to require assisted ventilation through an artificial breathing tube, but not serious enough to be admitted to intensive care. They were therefore not recorded as severe.
"If a patient with flu requires [tracheal] intubation but is not admitted to ICU, then these figures are not recorded," Ho said on local radio.
"In terms of how this figure reflects the overall severity [of this outbreak], I believe there has been some underestimation."
Meanwhile, Ho said that for the sake of patients' health, the city should consider legislation requiring frontline medical workers to receive flu vaccines every year.
He also agreed with a recent suggestion by the Medical Association for doctors to administer the anti-flu medication Tamiflu early to high-risk patients.
Though the World Health Organisation's prediction of the prevalent strains of influenza during the current flu season turned out to be wrong, resulting in a reduction in vaccine protection against the virus, Ho urged the public not to forgo their flu shots. They would still reduce infection risk by half, he said.