Hospital emergencies overloaded by worst flu outbreak in three years

Updated 2018-01-08 11:01:06

Patients line up in the middle of the night for appointments the following morning at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital (PUMCH).

With hospitals across much of China packed with patients stricken by the most severe flu outbreak in years, epidemiologists say the virus cannot be compared to SARS.

Health institutions in China are reporting many more flu cases this year than the last three winters. Kindergarten and primary school students are most affected, China National Radio (CNR) reported, quoting the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Saturday at Beijing Children's Hospital 300 patients were still waiting to see doctors after normal working hours. Top hospitals and medical centers in many parts of China, including Xi'an, Guangzhou and Hebei Province are reporting a dramatic increase in the number of patients suffering flu symptoms, CNR reported.

However, online comments suggesting the current flu outbreak is comparable to the SARS epidemic were rejected by experts.

Liu Youning, a professor of epidemiology and respiratory medicine at the PLA General Hospital in Beijing, told the Global Times the two viruses have different pathogens and are not comparable.

"The flu virus, which has a much lower death rate than the SARS virus, is quite mild this year. It mainly targets the elderly and children," Liu said, noting that the mortality rate of those infected by SARS was as high as 10 percent.

The current strains of flu are mainly Influenza A/H3N2 and Influenza A/H1N1 and Influenza B (Yamagata), according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

Local medical institutions have to register and transfer patients whose body temperature is above 38 degrees to second-tier and top-tier hospitals, Caixin quoted a staff member from a local community hospital in Shanghai as saying.

Wang Dayan, the director of the Chinese National Influenza Center, said the flu rate is expected to go down around Spring Festival as the rate comes close to its peak after a period of rapid growth, CNR reported.

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