Two H7N9 bird flu patients - a four-year-old boy in Shanghai and a 67-year-old man in Hangzhou - are recovering from the illness, bringing hope in the fight against the deadly new virus strain.
The wife and son of the Hangzhou patient, who was confirmed to be infected a week ago, saw him yesterday via a video telephone link at the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University. The four-year-old boy in Shanghai has recovered with no sign of respiratory illness, said Wu Fan, director of the municipal Centre for Disease Control.
The wife of the Hangzhou patient said: "I could not help but cry when I saw him via television. He was snatched from the jaws of death and I almost lost him. Now I am the happiest person in the world. Doctors said he is not completely out of danger yet, but he can smile and hear us. We all see the hope."
The man had been in an isolation ward for eight days and was once on the verge of respiratory failure. He developed a cough and fever on March 20, a few days after he bought two quail at a local wet market which also sold other poultry including doves and chickens.
Since Friday night, he has been able to urinate again, which his doctors said was a positive signal that his circulatory system was starting to work again.
Twelve doctors and 20 nurses had been busy taking care of him over the past week. His attending doctor, Li Lanjuan, one of the country's top infectious disease experts, told local media that the case could help offer clues to finding an effective therapy for H7N9 bird flu.
Li said the patient was injected with massive doses of antibiotics but only started to get better after her team stopped using antibiotics and turned to traditional therapy methods such as breath work and total parenteral nutrition (TPN).
This avoided further infection and was usually used on critical patients.
TPN is a way of supplying all the nutritional needs of the body by bypassing the digestive system and drip-feeding a nutrient solution directly into a vein.
Fang Qiang , director of the hospital's intensive care unit, told local newspapers that even though the man's condition had improved, they were still trying to clean the virus out of his body.
The patient's wife said she believed the strain of virus could not be transmitted from human to human because she had been with her husband around the clock after he fell ill on March 20. He had also been in contact with many people when seeing doctors on March 22 and March 25.
"We seldom ate poultry," she said. "My husband decided to cook quail for a change as I had lost my appetite. But I can't remember what the exact date was."
She said her husband went to a wet market and bought two slaughtered quail from a stall that also sold ducks, doves and chickens.
"The quail were slaughtered by the vendor," she said. "My husband just cleaned and cooked them for me. He did not even have a bite."
Her husband felt ill on March 20 and had a fever of 39 degrees Celsius. He went to see a doctor on March 22 at a local clinic and then at a hospital on March 25, where he was treated for pneumonia. He was transferred to the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University last Tuesday and confirmed to be infected with H7N9 later that day.
"My husband was very healthy before and never touched live poultry," his wife said. "We still have no idea how he got sick."
Click on each balloon for more information on individual patients infected with the avian flu virus: blue, patients infected with the H7N9 virus under treatment; red, those infected with the H7N9 who have died; and pink, those with H1N1 avian flu virus.