Shanghai hospitals on alert after new bird flu deaths
He Huifeng, Lo Wei and Lawrence Chung in Taipei
Shanghai's health bureau has ordered hospitals to step up monitoring and supervision of respiratory diseases after a new strain of bird flu killed two people in the city last month, the Shanghai Daily reported yesterday.
A doctor in Shanghai said hospitals had been asked to report suspected cases on a daily basis.
Two men aged 87 and 27 died after being infected with H7N9 avian influenza - a sub-type not transmitted to humans previously. The National Health and Family Planning Commission said a 35-year-old woman in Anhui was in a critical condition after being infected last month.
She had been in contact with birds, while the younger man in Shanghai worked as a butcher, the state-backed Health News said on its website yesterday, suggesting a transmission route.
The head of the school of public health at Fudan University played down the threat. "So far, it is still an animal virus, not a human virus," the Shanghai Daily quoted Jiang Qingwu as saying.
A source close to the municipal health authorities said Shanghai media and hospitals had been ordered to present a united front in their public responses to the human cases of bird flu.
Staff at No5 People's Hospital - in Shanghai's Minhang district, where the two fatal H7N9 infections occurred - had been told to reply to media with "no comment" or "please contact the health authorities". Some Shanghai residents expressed concern about the lack of emergency measures, even though authorities say there is no evidence the virus is spreading.
"We've heard little and thus don't feel scared. But many of us will avoid eating pork and poultry," housewife Lin Xiaoxia said.
Taiwan has also stepped up the alert level against H7N9, officials there said yesterday.
Hong Kong Poultry Wholesalers Association chairman Tsui Ming-tuen said he was not worried as there had been no widespread chicken deaths.
Additional reporting Agence France-Presse