An infectious diseases expert urged schools yesterday to consider suspending classes on their own initiative if flu outbreaks among their pupils persisted for more than a week. The Centre for Health Protection says it is still too soon to order closures as a result of the outbreaks that by yesterday had affected 51 students at nine schools, although it and the Education Bureau are monitoring the schools closely. But University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said schools should make their own decisions. 'If outbreaks were still seen in schools after a week, they should consider for themselves suspending classes,' he said. The public should also take their own precautions, including washing their hands and using alcohol rubs. Centre for Health Protection controller Thomas Tsang Ho-fai said suspension was not justified yet because the influenza season was similar to that of previous years. Meanwhile, patients with flu symptoms are being advised to consult their family doctor before going to hospitals. 'It's more risky to go to the emergency room because there may be cross infection or secondary infection,' Medical Association president Choi Kin said. People had panicked since a three-year-old girl suffering from flu died on March 1 and were flocking to hospitals, he said. Medical sector legislator Kwok Ka-ki recommended a public-private partnership between the government and clinics in the community to discourage people from going to hospitals for flu remedies.