WHO alerts nations to new strain of flu


HONG KONG - The World Health Organization said yesterday that it had alerted health officials around the world to increase their preparedness in response to two human cases here this week of an apparently new strain of bird flu.

The health agency cautioned that the virus did not appear capable of spreading quickly.

The agency offered chemical tests to laboratories around the world to help them determine whether influenza samples that they might receive from doctors were the new virus.

The organization also raised its official level of influenza preparedness a notch, the first time it has done so since the organization adopted its current ranking of influenza severity in 1999.

A 33-year-old man died here Monday of the bird virus; his 9-year-old son is still in the hospital with what appears to be the same illness.

The boy and his father became ill during a visit early this month to a Chinese island close to the coast of Fujian province, across the Taiwan Strait from Taiwan. The boy's sister died of a flu-like disease Feb. 4 while still on the island.

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