A spokesman for the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health said today (August 17) that the Government has amended the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance (Cap. 599) to include variant influenza A (H3N2) as one of the statutorily notifiable diseases.
The spokesman said, "Recently in the US, a significant increase in the number of variant influenza A (H3N2) cases has been reported. In order to prepare in advance for possible importations of this infection into Hong Kong and their consequences, there is public health justification to strengthen the surveillance over this type of influenza to enable effective public health preventive and control measures be implemented locally. It is considered necessary to amend the Ordinance to include variant influenza A (H3N2) in the list of scheduled infectious diseases, with effect from August 17, 2012."
The amendment, which has been gazetted today, enables provisions of the Ordinance, such as medical surveillance, quarantine and isolation, to be applied as and when necessary.
"The law amendment will make Hong Kong better prepared against the disease by facilitating early disease detection and implementation of appropriate public health measures if they are called for, depending on public health risk assessment," he added.
Medical practitioners are required to notify the Director of Health if they have reason to suspect variant influenza A (H3N2). The CHP has sent letters to all medical practitioners to inform them of the legislative amendment and reporting criteria.
Variant influenza A (H3N2) was first detected in the US in 2011, with a total of 12 cases reported that year. The country saw an increase in the number of infections since July this year. As at August 10, 2012, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had reported 166 cases, of which 153 cases were reported recently in July and early August.
According to the CDC, most cases, presenting with signs and symptoms of influenza, were mild and self-limited. Antiviral drugs, oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza), are expected to be effective in treating variant influenza A (H3N2).
There have been no reports of cases from other parts of the world so far.
The CHP spokesman advised members of the public to observe good personal and environmental hygiene to prevent influenza.
"In Hong Kong, the CHP has a sensitive laboratory surveillance system for the influenza virus," he said. "The CHP will continue to closely monitor the global and local influenza activity as well as genetic changes of the circulating influenza viruses in Hong Kong."
Ends/Friday, August 17, 2012