Hundreds and thousands of children in Hong Kong have been told to stay at home and not go to school because the government wants to limit the spread of a flu outbreak.
All kindergarten, primary and special needs schools remain shut from Thursday, 8th February, 2018 through the Chinese New Year holidays. They will reopen at the end of the month. The government is asking schools to use this time to clean and disinfect their buildings.
Here’s some background on the phenomenon called ‘the flu’ that most of you will have experienced. ‘The flu’ is short for ‘The Influenza virus’. So what is this?
1. It is a virus that jumps from person to person through the air, and through touch.
2. It is very contagious.
3. Symptoms include: cough, cold, sneezing, body ache, and fever.
Most diseases are caused by bacteria or viruses. But what are they?
Bacteria are small organisms made up of one cell. These can live in many different areas, inside and outside bodies, and in various climates. They can be killed by antibiotics like the yucky Augmentin that we bet many of you have had! These antibiotics attack parts of the structure of the bacteria that only they have, but that human cells and viruses do not. Such as the bacterial cell wall.
Viruses are also very small, but they need a living body to live in. They are not killed by antitbiotics.
So what can we do to protect ourselves from the flu virus? You know… wash your hands regularly, stay far away from sneezes and coughs, have lots of fruit and vegetables rich in Vitamin C!
Got it! Back to Hong Kong:It’s been a worrying flu season there. More than 120 people have died from the flu since January this year. Of them, two were children. That’s awful!
The reason people are getting so sick is the weather – it has been a colder than usual winter so it’s not surprising that so many people, particularly kids and the elderly, who are more vulnerable, are catching the flu.
Hong Kong is particularly sensitive to flu outbreaks because of its history. In 2009, there was a severe outbreak of swine flu (started in pigs, but then spread to humans, and is a bad form of the flu) in the region so that was the last time the government ordered schools to shut down. And before that, there was SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, another deadly virus that causes symptoms like the flu, but is far stronger) in 2003. 229 people died then and hundreds were hospitalized.
So, the Hong Kong government is being cautious by asking children to stay at home and rest and not pass the disease on to other people.
OK that sounds sensible! Most parents understand the decision. And its important to note that the children who are off from school are healthy and they’re pretty happy too!
Note: Think abut the last time you had unexpected holidays from school. Usually due to some nasty weather or some other such threat. How excited were you? And what did you come up with to entertain yourself?!
This article was written by Mallika Kapur, a journalist and a mom!