Medical experts warned people to take measures to protect themselves against flu as parts of North China were hit by the highest temperatures in 40 years yesterday.
But they reported no signs of an influenza epidemic had been detected despite scores of people attending hospital suffering from colds.
Medical chiefs at Beijing hospitals said these patients made up almost all of those seeking treatment in the past few days.
Dong Zhenying, vice-director of the Epidemics Department of Beijing Municipal Station of Health and Epidemic Prevention, said flu symptoms were similar to those of colds.
Doctors usually cannot tell colds from flu until they have undertaken a virus check-up, Dong said.
They regard different symptoms as targets when they treat patients that get upper respiratory tract problems.
A large-scale flu outbreak last occurred in Beijing in 1998, when at least 1 million people -- 10 percent of its population -- caught flu between November to January that winter, according to official statistics.
Beijing residents are asked to pay extra attention to the disease as experts with the Beijing Meteorological Observatory said the city air will remain dry, which raises the chance for getting respiratory problems such as flu.
They said the temperature in Beijing hit a maximum of 14 °C yesterday -- the highest in the past 40 years.
And they urged people not to take part in group activities or visit populous places.
"People can contract flu when others suffering from symptoms attend such activities and sneeze," she explained.
She said anyone feeling sick should stay home and have a good rest. "That is good for themselves and for others who are not yet feeling under the weather," she said.
An expert with the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine said people should drink more water and do more physical exercises to strengthen their resistance to the disease.
People should also ventilate their rooms often so there is enough fresh air.
Children and elderly people, among whom the incidence of flu is relatively high, should be especially cautious.
She added people should keep themselves warm when it gets cold because the human body's resistance to diseases weakens in cold days.
Meanwhile, hospitals in Beijing are receiving large quantities of people who have caught upper respiratory tract diseases, such as colds.
(China Daily January 5, 2002 )