Regular schools and Sunday schools have been halted in southern Sri Lanka due to a deadly flu virus that has killed 13 children. Father Michael Colin, parish priest of Our Lady of Matara Shrine, said priests in Galle Diocese are advising parishioners to take safety measures to prevent the virus spreading. A group of journalists distributed leaflets in front of Matara Hospital on June 5 to alert people to the threat. "We cancelled Sunday schools last weekend and this coming weekend to prevent the spread of viral flu," said Father Colin. The government has closed the primary sections of schools and pre-schools to prevent the virus spreading. Medical officers warned people to keep a special watch on small children, the elderly and pregnant women. Bishop Raymond Wickramasinghe
of Galle requested Catholics to remember affected people and committed officials in their daily prayers. "Southern Province has faced a great challenge in the form of a widespread flu epidemic," he said. "We encourage and thank the efforts taken by medical professionals of all categories who are working round the clock to render the maximum medical treatment and care to affected children and adults." President Maithripala Sirisena instructed officials to take immediate measures to control the epidemic. Nalika Sumathi, 54, a mother of two children, said hospitals are crowded with hundreds of flu victims. "Everybody is scared and runs to the hospital when children get sick," said Sumathi, who took her 3-year-old son to hospital. "It was very common for children to get fever, coughs, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches and loss of appetite in other years, but this flu leads to pneumonia."