Mary Ann Benitez and Candy Chan
Friday, August 24, 2012
Health authorities have issued an alert over a fivefold surge in outbreaks of acute gastroenteritis, or stomach flu, just ahead of next month's school opening.
There has also been a 30 percent increase in cases involving the superbug community- associated methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus with 489 people infected.
Centre for Health Protection controller Thomas Tsang Ho-fai said there have been 55 outbreaks of acute gastroenteritis since the start of the year, including 15 in July.
Normally the norovirus that causes stomach flu is active in the winter, and the surge in the summer may be due to the introduction of a new strain from Europe.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever and malaise.
He appealed to the public to observe personal hygiene and good eating habits because the virus is normally transmitted through the oral route.
"They should also be specially careful about the handling of vomit because this virus is highly infectious through vomit produced by patients," he said.
Tsang said a single outbreak at a school has been known to infect up to 300 people and he urged parents to keep their children at home if they show symptoms.
The center also reported that of the 489 cases of the CA- MRSA superbug this year, 11 were household clusters or occurred among close contacts. Sharing of personal items, including towels, clothing, razors or nail clippers, carries up to a fivefold risk of infection while frequent handwashing cuts the risk five times.
Meanwhile, Tsang urged travelers to the United States to be wary of mosquito bites amid the worst outbreak of West Nile virus there, with 1,118 cases and 41 deaths so far this year.