Shanghai, bird flu nightmare returns. Two dead
In the metropolis, the two victims die from a new strain of the infamous H5N1 virus, which seems to have again mutated. Two other cases "in serious condition" from the provinces of Anhui and Jiangsu. Government waits weeks before making the announcement and triggers mass protests. WHO: "Situation under control."

Shanghai (AsiaNews) - The Office of Public Health of the metropolis of Shanghai has ordered all hospitals to "monitor and report" any suspicion of respiratory disease, after the death of two men caused by a new strain of bird flu. The H7N9 virus is a subtype of the H5N1 virus, which since 2005 has plagued all of Asia: up to now, however, this had never been transmitted to humans.

The two victims were 87 and 27 years, and a third case concerns a woman of 35from the Province. Health authorities claim that she is "in serious condition", but waited three weeks before launching the alarm in hospitals. According to Health News, the state newspaper that reported the news, one of the victims was a butcher, while the woman "lives  in contact with fowl."

The fourth case instead came to light via social networks. A man, who according to his Weibo profile is the managing director of the Nanjing Drum Tower Hospital, published the diagnosis of a woman of 45 years from Jiangsu Province who - working as a chicken butcher - contracted the virus. The woman, hospitalized, has worsened since March 24 and was admitted to ICU. March 30 doctors confirmed the diagnosis.

A source who works in the sector said that the government "has ordered the media and public health officials to present a united front in responding to the public about these cases." And the staff  of hospital No. 5 in Shanghai (where the deaths took place) respond "no comment" and "contact the health authorities." However, the news has worried the civilian population Lin Xiaoxia, a housewife, says that "there is no news, but many of us are now avoid eating poultry or pigs."

Tang Jingling, a lawyer in Guangzhou, said the delay in the announcement is connected to social stability: " The main reason is the 'stability maintenance' thinking of the authorities. They figure that if they announce it, the job of maintaining social stability will get a lot harder. Staying in power matters more to the [ruling] Chinese Communist Party than the safety of its people or their property".

In any case, for now the situation seems to be under control. The government of Hong Kong - plagued by the SARS epidemic in 2002 and 2003 - says it has been "informed through official channels" about the cases, but considers them to be "isolated". The spokesman for the World Health Organization in China, Timothy O'Leary, calms fears: " There is apparently no evidence of human-to-human transmission, and transmission of the virus appears to be inefficient, therefore the risk to public health would appear to be low."

 

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