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2 flu viruses found in HK victim
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Experts in Hong Kong found two flu viruses and a steroid inside the body of a boy who died of influenza in an outbreak that has forced the closure of all kindergartens and primary schools in the special administrative region.

The city's Department of Health found the H1 and H3 viruses and components of a steroid after examining the body of the seven-year-old boy, Guangzhou Daily reported today.

Another three-year-old girl also died of the flu early this month, following the death of a two-year-old child at the end of February.

Hong Kong health officials have reported nine confirmed flu cases and 65 suspected ones since March 6, mostly at schools, in the territory of nearly seven million.

Scientists suspected that the seven-year-old had taken a steroid to treat his asthma, which weakened his immune system, the report said.

The boy's death report is not likely to come out soon, the report said. But scientists have already ruled out the possibility of bird flu or severe acute respiratory syndrome, an epidemic that killed hundreds of people in Hong Kong in 2003.

Yuen Kwok-yung, a leading Hong Kong scientist, and a panel of experts studied the two deceased flu patients and found that the flu virus had not spread beyond their lungs, which suggested the virus was not too virulent.

The World Health Organization also said yesterday that there was no reason for concern. WHO spokesman Peter Cordingley called the Hong Kong outbreak "just regular seasonal flu."

Late on Wednesday the Hong Kong government ordered all kindergartens, primary and special education schools to close for two weeks effective yesterday.

This move was reminiscent of measures taken during Hong Kong's outbreak of SARS

The closure in effect starts the Easter holiday for schools about a week in advance. It will affect nearly 560,000 students at 1,745 schools.

Many schools have required students to wear masks since the outbreak occurred nearly two weeks ago.

(Shanghai Daily, March 14, 2008)

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