Chinese officials in the province of Jiangsu announced Tuesday that three women and one man were ill from the H7N9 virus. All of the patients were from different cities in the province, and all were seriously affected by this strain of the bird flu. The women are 45, 48 and 32, and the man is 83.
According to reports, only one of the patients, the 45 year old woman, comes into daily contact with birds. She is a poultry butcher. At this time, it appears that the cases are not related in any way, and those close to the patients have not experienced any kind of respiratory distress or signs of the illness, but officials are keeping a close eye on the situation in case it should become worse.
Health officials all across the country are taking steps to develop a way to combat this rare strain of the bird flu; as two men died from it last week. In Shanghai, officials enacted an emergency plan that will enforce close monitoring of flu cases that are suspicious. The plan requires that schools, retirement homes and hospitals all be on the lookout for suspicious fevers and that the health officials be notified if there are any more than five flu cases in one week.
In the case of severe pneumonia that has no known cause, reports will be made daily, and those that are in close contact with birds will be closely watched for signs of illness.
The head of the Shanghai health bureau said that serious measures will be taken to stop the spread of the virus and protect the health of the city’s residents. Health officials have also reported that they have the situation under control and that residents should stay calm and not panic.
In the past, the H7N9 virus was thought to be difficult for humans to contract. This is unlike the H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus that hit the country so hard in 2003. Since this form of the bird flu became an issue, it has killed 360 people around the world. That strain hit countries all across Asia, and even spread around the world.
In a rare show of slight transparency, the Chinese health officials have stated that the people affected by the H7N9 virus did not look to be connected. Officials also reported that none of the patients’ closest contacts had experienced any symptoms of the virus, which is promising news. The notifications are also promising as during the SARS pneumonia outbreak, it was due to government enforced silence that the disease was allowed to spread across China and to 12 other countries.
Health officials in Beijing are preparing for this virus. As in other parts of China, schools, retirement homes and hospitals are to keep a close eye out for cases of pneumonia and flu without any known cause, and report theses incidences immediately.