Flu epidemic no cause for SARS panic, expert says

Updated 2018-01-08 09:31:13 China Daily

A child with the flu is given an intravenous drip at the First Hospital of Hebei Medical University in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, on Friday. Hospitals in many parts of China have seen a rising number of people seeking treatment for cold.

Families advised to wash hands, avoid crowds to keep virus at bay

Flu outbreaks are up across China compared with previous years, but the epidemic remains at normal levels and is much less severe than the SARS outbreak, an official from Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said.

"It is irrelevant to compare flu outbreaks with SARS, as the two diseases are different in many respects," said He Xiong, deputy director of the Beijing CDC, who participated in the central government's efforts to fight SARS in 2003.

"Although SARS is not strongly infectious, it caused panic because it was an entirely new disease unknown to humans then, and there were no effective means of treatment for the disease."

People have known about the flu for many years, and its consequences are not as deadly as SARS, he said. "Rather, it targets those with chronic diseases mostly and can worsen their conditions."

The recent flu epidemic has caused panic, with some linking it to SARS in 2003, which caused more than 300 deaths on the Chinese mainland, according to media reports.

Globally, 5 to 10 percent of adults and 20 to 30 percent of children get the flu every year. Most are minor cases, although more than 3 million cases will result in severe conditions, including death, according to data shared by the China CDC and the World Health Organization.

China has entered the peak of flu season, and the number of outbreaks-10 cases or more-has been significantly higher than the average for the past few years, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

However, surveillance has not found virus mutations that can affect the spread and severity of the disease, and the flu epidemic remains at predicted levels, the authority said.

In Beijing, 5,298 flu cases were reported between Dec 18 and 24, a rise of more than 80 percent on the previous week, according to the Beijing Health and Family Planning Commission.

On Tuesday, the Beijing CDC called on parents to take precautionary measures to prevent themselves and their children getting the flu, including hand-washing, avoiding crowded places, and eating a balanced diet.

In addition to a good lifestyle, receiving vaccines is an effective method of preventing most flu, He Xiong said.

The flu vaccines used in China are recommended by WHO and can prevent three strains-H1N1, H3N2 and B/Victoria-but they have limited effect against B/Yamagata, the dominant strain in outbreaks in China this winter, according to the national health authority.

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