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H.K. expects new flu outbreaks when school starts: health official.

HONG KONG, Aug. 28 Kyodo

The new influenza outbreak might affect as many as 100 schools in the first two weeks of the new semester beginning next month, a health official said Friday.

Thomas Tsang, head of the Center for Health Protection, said 20 kindergartens have reported new flu cases this month and as the new semester begins next month for most other schools, he expects the case number to rise.

''The peak of the summer flu season has not passed,'' Tsang said. ''With students returning to school next month, the number of cases would likely increase in the first one or two weeks.''

He said he ''would not be surprised'' that as many as 100 schools a week might report new flu outbreaks in the worst case scenario.

In June, the government ordered a territory-wide school closure throughout the summer after a series of school outbreaks were reported.

The World Health Organization estimates that the H1N1 virus could infect up to 2 billion people over the next two years, which is about one-third of the total world population.

Zhong Nanshan, a mainland respiratory disease expert who helped identify the source of the SARS outbreak in 2003, has said he agreed that the number of new flu infection cases would explode in the coming months, but he would not comment on the estimated number of victims.

Quoted by mainland's Southern Metropolis Daily, Zhong said China's 3,200 reported cases are within normal range and the virus found in a serious case in southern China's Guangzhou did not show any mutation.

As of Thursday, Hong Kong has reported 10,468 new flu cases and of which four had died.

Zhong said Hong Kong's high number of cases is ''a call for vigilance.''
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Aug 31, 2009
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