Schools close in Hong Kong flu alert

Hong Kong's government ordered all kindergartens and primary schools to close for two weeks yesterday following a flu outbreak.

It also asked one of its top scientists to study the deaths of three children over the past week.

York Chow, the Health Minister, said Yuen Kwok-yung, who helped study Hong Kong's outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak (Sars), four years ago, would head a panel of scientists studying the recent fatalities.

No cause has yet been determined in any of the deaths but Mr Chow said he became concerned after the most recent – that of a seven-year-old boy – saw five of the victim's classmates also taken to hospital.

Mr Chow said the early school closures would prevent the spread of influenza in classrooms. "We estimate this peak season of influenza will continue for a few weeks," he said.

Health officials have confirmed a total of six outbreaks at schools, a hospital and a nursing home for the elderly since 6 March. Sars infected a total of 1,755 people in Hong Kong and killed 299.