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SFH on class suspension in primary schools and kindergarten due to flu

    Following is the transcript of remarks made by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, at a stand-up media session at Murray Building, Central last night (March 12):

Reporter: Dr Chow, is there any real pressing medical reason to implement the closure of schools and is there any indication other than a normal influenza?

Secretary for Food and Health: At present, there is no indication showing there is any significant change of the virus that makes it exceptionally more virulent than the usual flu virus. But of course we cannot rule out anything yet.  So, our scientists will continue to investigate, particularly the causes of death of the children concerned. We will also monitor the virus in the community. We will also do isolates from various reports, from both the sentinel surveillance as well as our clinics and hospitals.  We have asked all the schools to inform us if they have any significant increase in sick leave, particularly if any of their students needed to be hospitalised. The hospitals will inform the Centre for Health Protection if there is any serious cases of influenza that were admitted with complications.  If this multiple monitoring were able to ensure that all the important information gathered, it would be able to allow us to assess the situation on a day-to-day basis.

Reporter: Is public fear the primary reason?

Secretary for Food and Health:  This is one of the reasons, of course. We feel that in the last few days there has been increasing concern of some parents and also some schools, particularly in some areas.  We look at the reports from different schools, there is more reports of outbreak usually from primary schools rather than high schools.  So, in this case, we feel that high schools need not be suspended for the time being.

Reporter:  There would be coroner's cases...Would you make a decision to extend the school closure before...

Secretary for Food and Health: We shall monitor the situation both from the public health angle regarding the number of virus isolates on a day-to-day basis to see what is the trend; secondly, I hope the special experts committee would be able to give us some indications particularly regarding the virus or some of the additional factors that caused the severity in the few cases that (the patients) unfortunately died. If that would actually help us make a better decision, of course we would announce as soon as possible.

(Please also refer to the Chinese session of the transcript)

Ends/Thursday, March 13, 2008
Issued at HKT 01:08


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