China says no unusual flu pattern in southern province

 
  

Flu cases that spurred Hong Kong to close primary schools for the first time since the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) scare have prompted close monitoring in the surrounding region, but no unusual flu patterns have been detected, China’s health minister said on Friday.

 

Experts have said there is no sign that the flu virus currently circulating in Hong Kong is more virulent than past viruses, despite three child deaths in the recent outbreaks. The World Health Organization has called the situation in Hong Kong a regular flu outbreak, noting at least two of the three children who died had other illnesses.

 

China’s health minister said on Friday he has not seen unusual patterns in Guangdong.

 

“We all know flu becomes common between winter and spring. Our analysis of Guangdong shows there haven’t been more flu cases than previous years, but we’re closely monitoring the situation,” Chen Zhu told reporters in Beijing.

 

Officials in the Guangdong capital of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, a city across the Chinese border from Hong Kong, also said they have not seen an unusual increase in flu cases.

 

“The current flu situation is steady ... There’s no apparent increase or decrease of the number of the infected, compared to the past years,” an official at the News Affairs Office of the Guangzhou City Health Bureau said. He would only give his surname as Huang.

 

Shenzhen officials noted the type of flu virus common in Shenzhen is different from Hong Kong, but said they are vigilant.

 

“We are in close touch with Hong Kong and neighboring areas. We will widen the coverage of our flu detection plan. We will implement higher-level control measures if we notice an unusual situation,” according to a statement posted on the Web site of Shenzhen’s health department.

 

In Hong Kong on Friday, primary schools and kindergartens remained closed as a precaution, keeping more than half a million students at home.

 

The government ordered the two-week closure starting Thursday – the first such public health measure since the outbreak more than five years ago of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

 

SARS surfaced in southern China in November 2002 before spreading to Hong Kong, where it killed 299 people and sparked a major public panic.

 

Former British colony Hong Kong is now Chinese territory, but it maintains separate political and economic systems from the mainland.

 

In statistics released late on Thursday, Hong Kong officials announced nine new confirmed flu outbreaks and 41 suspected ones, affecting 305 people.

 

That brings the total since March 6 to 18 confirmed outbreaks, 106 suspected ones and 837 affected people in a city of nearly 7 million. Most of the cases have been confined to schools. (AP)

 
 
 
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