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October 30, 2009

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Vaccination critical as local H1N1 cases rise

THE number of swine flu cases is rising in Shanghai as the city moves ahead with efforts to vaccinate high-risk population groups against the disease, municipal government spokesman Chen Qiwei told a news briefing yesterday.

Also yesterday, health officials advised that pregnant women, pre-school children, the elderly and other vulnerable people avoid situations where they might encounter the sometimes-deadly H1N1 virus.

Confirmed cases of swine flu jumped by 236 in the past two weeks, as the city is now in the peak season for influenza. Since the first victim was discovered in May, Shanghai has recorded 1,278 cases of swine flu. Only two have been serious, and one of the victims has already recovered.

There were 118 cases in June, 156 in July, 198 in August and 459 in September.

Shanghai began a program in mid-October to give free swine flu shots to high-risk groups, such as medical staff, police officers and other public service workers, airline employees, kindergarten teachers and students and teachers at primary and middle schools. So far, 41,000 locals have received the free shots. Some 2.1 million people are expected to be vaccinated by the end of the year.

The inoculations come none too soon. Hospitals involved in swine flu surveillance and laboratories in the influenza monitoring network reported that 47 percent of recent samples from patients suffering flu symptoms tested positive for the H1N1 virus, compared with 28 percent in mid-August and early September.

But even with the higher numbers, health officials said there is no local epidemic and the situation is under control.

"The most important measure for swine flu control and prevention is vaccination. The largest batch of recipients - students and teachers at primary and middle schools - will start receiving vaccinations on November 10," said Song Guofan, a Shanghai Health Bureau official. "Schools are the key to swine flu, as most of the nation's outbreaks have taken place in the classroom."

For vulnerable groups not eligible for the free shots, the best advice is to stay away from settings where the disease might be found.

Dr Lu Hongzhou, vice president of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center, said pregnant women are more likely than others to suffer severe symptoms or even death if they contract swine flu virus. But pregnant women on the Chinese mainland were not targeted for shots due to a lack of clinical data proving the domestically made vaccination is safe for them.


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