New Flu Strain Could
Kill Millions
A new strain of flu - believed to have started in pigs - could kill millions, experts warned yesterday.
An international team of scientists are focusing on the new type of Hong Kong flu.
Alarm bells sounded after a 10-month-old girl was admitted to the city's Tuen Mun hospital in September.
Although she recovered, the virus bore the molecular hallmarks of a known pig strain.
Pigs were thought to have started the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak, which lead to the deaths of an estimated 20million people around the world.
Alan Hay, of the World Health Organisation's influenza collaborating centre at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, said: "We're monitoring the case very carefully.
"It's at quite a preliminary stage."
Most influenza strains are variants of known viruses that can be controlled with readily available vaccines.
But every few decades a radically different type appears.
Virologists at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, are helping the WHO team study samples of the virus taken from the girl.
The last major outbreaks occurred in 1957 and 1968.
Two years ago Hong Kong was the centre of an influenza scare when a strain of the virus that normally affects chickens struck 18 people and killed six.