Flu Closes Hong Kong Schools

'Precautionary measure' sends half a million kids home for two weeks
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2008 8:51 AM CDT
A school student wearing a mask as a preventative measure against a recent flu outbreak leaves a primary school in Hong Kong Wednesday March 12, 2008.    (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
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(Newser) – Over half a million children in Hong Kong are starting their Easter holiday early today after a flu outbreak led the government to order schools to close, AP reports. All kindergartens and primary schools in the densely populated territory will be shut down for two full weeks. Three children have died, but health officials stress that there is no evidence of any more virulent strain than the usual flu virus, and bird flu is not thought to be a factor.

Hong Kong's health chief said the move was a precaution to stop flu from spreading and calm public fears. "When children are at school, it's very hard to keep them still and prevent them from contacting each other," he said. Five years ago, an outbreak of the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome killed 299 in Hong.