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Red alert at schools after A/H1N1 flu outbreaks
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Schools and colleges have been warned to be on red alert to help prevent further outbreaks of the deadly A/H1N1 flu ahead of the new academic year.

The call came as more than 100 cases of the virus were confirmed after outbreaks in Henan and Gansu provinces.

Medical staff at Xin'an county, Henan province, transport H1N1 suspects to hospitals.

Medical staff at Xin'an county, Henan Province, transport A/H1N1 suspects to hospitals. [China Daily]

"A large-scale outbreak among students would be unthinkable," Guan Yi, a professor in microbiology at Hong Kong University, told China Daily yesterday. "The spread of A/H1N1 flu is so fast we may not be able to deal with it if we are not well prepared."

He urged school staff to regularly check pupils' temperatures and send those suffering telltale symptoms to hospital as quickly as possible.

As of yesterday afternoon, temperature screenings and epidemiological surveys by the country's centers for disease control and prevention confirmed 80 cases of A/H1N1 flu among students at No 3 Senior High School in Xing'an county, Henan, and another 26 at a high school in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu.

The People's Hospital of Xin'an county admitted two second-grade school pupils last Thursday, said sources with the local government.

The high school, which has 2,768 students, was ordered by the health bureau in the city of Luoyang to close for a week when the first eight cases were confirmed on Saturday.

A Tsinghua University freshman surnamed Li from Shanghai also tested positive for the virus in Beijing on Friday. He was hospitalized and 23 people he came into close contact with were quarantined.

Officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) said the flu strain is spreading four times faster than other viruses and that 40 percent of the fatalities were young adults in good health.

Although 90 percent of severe and fatal seasonal flu cases occur in people aged over 65, most of those killed by the A/H1N1 flu virus have been under 50, officials said.

"This virus travels at an unbelievable, almost unheard of speed," WHO Director General Margaret Chan told French newspaper Le Monde.

"Sixty percent of the deaths covered those who had underlying health problems. This means 40 percent of the fatalities concern young adults - in good health - who die of a viral fever in five to seven days.

"This is the most worrying fact. Up to 30 percent of people in densely populated countries risk getting infected."

More than 2,180 people around the world have died from the virus since April, WHO figures show.

(China Daily August 31, 2009)

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