SINGAPORE--Hong Kong health authorities now count at least 306 deaths from seasonal influenza this year, surpassing the 299 deaths attributed to the 2003 outbreak of SARS that echoed around the world, prompting a new vaccination push. The number of new cases fell somewhat recently, but it was noted that could have been a result of fewer people seeing doctors during the just-ended Lunar New Year.
Hospitals in the city reported intensive care units (ICUs) over capacity and physicians working in 24-hour shifts to cope with the outbreak. The Center for Health Protection counted 415 adults and 17 children having been treated in ICUs so far this year.
Hong Kong medical personnel also were hampered by the wrong call earlier when the World Health Organization advised preparing for certain flu strains that turned out not to be the dominant ones this year.
The secretary for food and health said that among the deaths was a recent case of the H7N9 strain usually resulting from contact with poultry and a major cause of concern last year.
Health authorities also repeated earlier advice for people to get vaccinated at least against some of the strains included in the outbreak, even though vaccine does not protect against all of the ones involved.