The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) has urged people not to ask for antibiotics if they have flu. “Seasonal influenza […] cannot be treated with antibiotics,” said a spokesman for the centre. “Antibiotics can only treat infections caused by bacteria [not viruses].”
Meanwhile, Hospital Authority chief executive Dr Leung Pak-yin has declared a “protracted war” against influenza that could last until the end of May, which could be a problem for public hospitals in the city. Last week, the dean of Chinese University’s medical school, Professor Francis Chan Ka-leung, compared overcrowded public hospitals to wet markets and battlefields.
“Every corner was filled with temporary beds. Even sinks for hand washing along the corridors were blocked by beds,” he said after visiting a public hospital last week.
On Monday, Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, Secretary for Food and Health, said more patients were likely to show up at hospitals in the coming days, now that the four-day Chinese New Year break was over.
On Monday morning, patients with less than severe flu symptoms waited for more than eight hours to see doctors at hospitals such as Queen Elizabeth, United Christian, and Prince of Wales.
“There were [fewer patients] on the first day of Chinese New Year, but there were more on the second and third days,” Chan said at North District Hospital.
According to the authority’s latest statistics, 6,870 people visited the accident and emergency departments at public hospitals in the city on Sunday. The overall occupancy rate of beds was 111 per cent, an increase from 104 per cent on Saturday.
“Staff in wards were very busy and had to handle emergency cases, distribute medication, take care of patients’ needs, provide explanations to relatives, and fill in hospital admission or discharge records at the same time,” Leung said.
Since the start of the year until February 18, 14 children were reported to have had severe flu, and there were two deaths. A two-year-old boy remained in a serious condition on Monday at United Christian Hospital.
The Education Bureau sparked an outcry when it decided to close primary schools earlier for the Chinese New Year holiday, to prevent the spread of influenza.
A spokeswoman for the bureau told Young Post that it will work with the CHP in preventing the spread of influenza by sanitising school premises. Primary schools are set to reopen on Monday, as the bureau said they will not extend the closure past the holiday.
In addition to cautioning people against the irresponsible use of antibiotics, the centre has advised everyone to have seasonal influenza vaccinations, as well as practise basic hygiene, like washing their hands regularly.