Beijing’s position as an international transit hub means the possibility of an H7N9 bird flu infection cannot be ruled out, the city’s top disease control unit said on Wednesday - as another death in Zhejiang raised the toll of victims to three.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said although recent cases of infection have been largely concentrated in eastern China, Beijing was not “absolutely safe” from the virus, the Beijing Times reported.
Beijing is still a heavily populated metropolis dealing with large flows of foreign and domestic visitors moving in and out of the city. This would could make it susceptible to infection, the centre suggested.
But CDC deputy director Pang Xinhuo urged the public not to panic and said the city would be prepared to take “thorough and seamless control measures” if there were any suspected infection cases.
The city has, so far, not received any reports of humans infected with the H7N9 virus.
“Once there are suspicious cases, epidemic prevention and control measures will move in to place in accordance with strict standards,” said Pang.
The first batch of 300 test reagents for the H7N9 avian flu influenza arrived in the capital on Wednesday. The CDC and 55 other laboratories in its network will be capable of testing for the virus upon any suspected cases of infection, Xinhua reported.
Pang said the city was well stocked with anti-viral influenza drug Tamiflu as well as emergency reserves. Two hospitals, Ditan and Youan, have been designated to admit suspected cases of H7N9.
“At present, the city’s response to the virus is to strengthen the monitoring of medical institutions and of patients with unexplained cases of pneumonia,” she added.
A 37-year-old chef in Taicang, Jiangsu, fell ill on March 7 and went to Hangzhou, Zhejiang's provincial capital, for treatment on March 18. He died in Xiaoshan Hospital on March 27.
A 67-year-old Hangzhou man was admitted to a hospital in the city on March 25 for a cough and a fever and was transferred to another hospital on Tuesday in a critical condition. He tested positive for the H7N9 virus
Beijing has ordered hospitals to include mandatory testing for H7N9 in routine monitoring and to train hospital staff on how to treat unexplained cases of pneumonia.
Hong Kong’s Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said on Wednesday, there was no need yet to raise the city's pandemic response level, but the reintroduction of visitor health declaration forms was being considered.
Taiwan’s health department has designated the H7N9 virus a notifiable disease.