Experts warn of more outbreaks over warm winter Mainland hospitals are on alert after a growing number of people have been struck down by a flu virus that has been attributed to an unusually warm winter. Hospitals in Beijing have been swamped since last week with patients with fevers and other symptoms of influenza. Local media said 5,000 cases were reported in Beijing every day, up 5 per cent on the same time last year. Many hospitals have complained of staff shortages, especially in emergency rooms. Emergency respiratory infection teams have been set up in districts and counties near the capital to monitor the situation and report to higher authorities. Schools have to take their students' temperature twice a day, and students with flu symptoms have been asked to stay home to avoid infecting others. Similar situations were reported in Tianjin, Jilin , Shanxi and Heilongjiang . In Guangdong, hospitals also reported receiving an increasing number of patients, but provincial Department of Health spokesman Feng Shaomin denied there was an influenza outbreak, saying the patients were just suffering from common colds. He said Guangdong could expect flu outbreaks during the first quarter of the year, but it was not known when. The influx of cases comes as China experiences its warmest winter in many years, a situation experts said could lead to further influenza outbreaks. Climate scientists have predicted that 2007 will be the world's warmest year on record, surpassing the peak set in 1998. And health experts in Guangdong have warned people to take precautions because of the unusual warm winter. 'A warm winter makes it easier for viruses to reproduce and makes prevention more difficult,' said Guangzhou Children's Hospital doctor Liu Ying . 'Warm weather reduces humidity and this can hurt our respiratory defence mechanism. People are more likely to catch a cold when there is a sudden temperature change. In the coming months, we need to be more alert for flu and other diseases, even Sars.'