Three more swine flu deaths in Hong Kong: officials

Posted at 02/21/11 2:14 PM

HONG KONG - Three more people in Hong Kong have died from swine flu, bringing the death toll to at least 17 in the past month, the territory's health authority said Monday.

Health officials have stepped up surveillance on the virulent strain of influenza since late last month amid concerns about more deaths in the teeming metropolis of seven million.

The latest three victims, who died last week, were a 64-year-old woman and two men aged 71 and 83, and come a year-and-a-half after an outbreak of the disease killed 80 people in the city.

"We are currently at the peak of the flu season," York Chow, the city's Secretary for Food and Health, told reporters Sunday.

"We anticipate this peak will last until mid March."

But Chow sought to play down fears of widespread fatalities, saying there were no signs so far that the virus had mutated into a drug-resistant strain.

Hong Kong is particularly nervous about infectious diseases following the 2003 SARS outbreak, which killed 300 people in the city and a further 500 worldwide.

Swine flu has killed more than 18,400 people and affected virtually all parts of the world since it was uncovered in Mexico and the United States in April 2009, according to the World Health Organization.

In August, the agency said swine flu had "largely run its course", declaring an end to the pandemic.