Hong Kong schools shut over deadly flu outbreak

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HONG KONG: Kindergartens and primary schools in Hong Kong will shut early for the Chinese New Year break due to a deadly flu outbreak, the government said yesterday. The closure begins today.

This winter flu season, some 111 people have died since January, including two people aged under 18, according to figures from the Centre for Health Protection.

Experts warned the epidemic may not have reached its peak. The authorities are seeking to reduce contact among students in crowded places ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday next week.

Microbiologist Yuen Kwok Yung told reporters yesterday: "If we don't deal with this now, our concern is that even if the epidemic begins to wind down, there may be more deaths or severe cases with children."

Public hospitals and emergency wards have been overflowing with patients while struggling with manpower shortages, local media reported.

Hong Kong is particularly alert to the spread of viruses.

Bird flu was first reported in humans in Hong Kong in 1997, when six people died, and subsequent outbreaks have killed hundreds more worldwide. An outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome swept through the city in 2003, killing 299 people. - AFP