Mainland reports first suspected swine flu case

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 May, 2009, 12:00am

Beijing last night reported the mainland's first suspected case of H1N1 human swine flu in a 30-year-old male student who had just returned to Sichuan province from studying in the US.

The patient, only given the surname Bao, travelled from St Louis in Missouri to Chengdu , Sichuan's capital.

He flew from St Louis to Tokyo via St Paul, Minnesota, on May 7, then boarded Northwestern Airlines flight NW029 on Friday and arrived at Beijing international airport early on Saturday.

He started to develop flu-like symptoms on a flight from Beijing to Chengdu on Saturday and was checked into Sichuan Provincial People's Hospital upon arriving in Chengdu early on Saturday afternoon. He twice tested mildly positive for the new flu virus yesterday in tests by Sichuan's disease control centre, and the provincial health authorities tentatively classified him as a suspected case. 'According to clinical appearances and the results of laboratory tests, the initial diagnosis is that it is a suspected case of type A H1N1 flu,' a statement by the Ministry of Health said.

The patient has been quarantined in a Chengdu contagious disease control hospital, and people who had direct contact with him during the diagnosis had been placed under observation, the ministry said.

The ministry sent an emergency taskforce to Chengdu to supervise monitoring and prevention work in Sichuan. It also sent a circular to local governments in an effort to find those who shared the flight with the patient. It urged those who had direct contact with him to report to health authorities. The ministry said it had reported the case to the World Health Organisation and health authorities in relevant countries.

On Saturday, Premier Wen Jiabao warned against any relaxation in preventing the spread of swine flu to the mainland.

He said Beijing was treating the 'global health incident' with the utmost care, and praised officials at all levels for doing a good job.

'I believe that the victory will be ours, but we must not relax,' he said during a visit to Fujian province , where he chatted with a quarantined patient via a video link at a hospital in Xiamen .

In Hong Kong, the Department of Health said it had received notification of the suspected case and was monitoring the situation closely.

The Hong Kong government also sent another three passengers who were on the same flight from the US as four Japanese infected with swine flu to hospitals for observation. They were two Hong Kong residents and a foreign traveller. The Hongkongers were admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital after officials contacted their families.

The foreign traveller was intercepted at the Lo Wu control point as he was leaving the city. He was placed under observation in North District Hospital. None of the three have shown flu symptoms.

Officials are still trying to trace another 16 travellers who had said they intended to come to Hong Kong. Two passengers from the same flight who had been taken for observation on Saturday have been cleared following tests. But they would continue to be quarantined for seven days, the Centre for Health Protection said.

Centre controller Thomas Tsang Ho-fai said it would step up precautionary measures. 'We will approach every passenger in economy class who came to Hong Kong,' he said.

'With three confirmed infections, there is a bigger chance of virus circulation on the plane.'

Japan intensified follow-up checks to prevent the spread of the disease after its health ministry announced its fourth confirmed case, a secondary school student who returned from a trip to North America. He was among 49 passengers quarantined after arriving at Tokyo's Narita airport on a flight from Detroit on Friday because they were seated close to the first three Japanese people found to have the virus.

Taiwan's health authorities said early today a woman and her baby daughter who had returned several days ago from the US were the island's first suspected cases of swine flu.