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Hong Kong Faces Potential Double Influenza Wave, Expert Warns

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HONG KONG — An infectious disease expert has issued a stark warning that Hong Kong could experience successive influenza peak seasons caused by different flu virus strains this year, potentially straining the city’s healthcare system.

Ivan Hung, a professor at the University of Hong Kong, highlighted the concern during a discussion on a Commercial Radio program on Saturday. He noted that influenza virus infections have surged to relatively high levels recently, attributing the rise to the population’s low immunity after three years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hung explained that while the peak flu season dominated by the A subtype H3 virus strain ended last October, infections have persisted into this year. Compounding the issue, the city is now facing a peak season dominated by the A subtype H1 flu virus strain.

“In January, we already had the influenza peak season for the subtype H3 virus, and then starting in April and May, we had the peak season dominated by the subtype H1 virus,” Hung said.

He warned that while H1 virus infections might ease from June to July, there is a possibility that the H3 virus could re-emerge, potentially leading to another smaller peak season from August to September.

“However, I think overall, the H3 virus-dominated peak season might be less severe compared to last year’s,” he added.

Hung urged parents to ensure their children receive flu vaccinations before the summer holidays, emphasizing the prevalence of serious cases among children infected with the H1 virus. He also pointed out that the city’s Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases has recommended that the Department of Health increase its procurement of nasal vaccines to boost vaccination rates, as young children are more amenable to receiving the nasal form of the vaccine.

In a separate prediction, Hung indicated that the newly discovered COVID-19 variant, KP.2 strain, found in the city’s sewage system, is likely to become the dominant strain, replacing the current prevalent variant, JN.1. He reassured the public that the new variant is not expected to cause severe cases.

As Hong Kong navigates these potential public health challenges, the emphasis remains on vaccination and preparedness to mitigate the impact of these viral threats.