Outbreak of flu shuts schools in Hong Kong
Scientists to study children's deaths
HONG KONG - Hong Kong's government yesterday ordered all kindergartens and primary schools closed for two weeks amid a flu outbreak.
The government has also asked one of its top scientists to study three child deaths over the past week.
The Education Bureau says all kindergartens, primary schools, and special schools will begin the Easter holiday early to prevent the spread of influenza in schools.
Health Secretary York Chow said the administration has seen a growing number of people suffering from the flu, adding that moving up the Easter break will help reduce infection among schoolchildren and calm public fears.
"We estimate this peak season of influenza will continue for a few weeks," Chow said during a news conference late last night.
Earlier in the day, Chow said Yuen Kwok-yung, who helped study Hong Kong's outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, about five years ago, will head a panel of scientists studying the recent deaths. SARS infected 1,755 people in Hong Kong and killed 299.
It was not clear whether the three cases were linked, but concerns became heightened after the most recent death - that of a 7-year-old boy Tuesday - because five of the victim's classmates have also been hospitalized, Chow said.
The cause of the boy's death has not been determined. Officials have said that some of his classmates were believed to be suffering from the flu, and the government closed the school earlier this week.
The five classmates who were still hospitalized were in stable condition, Chow said.
No cause has been determined in the deaths last week of two girls ages 2 and 3.
The deaths occurred amid a series of flu outbreaks in Hong Kong over the past several days. Health officials have confirmed a total of six outbreaks at schools, a hospital, and a nursing home for the elderly since March 6.