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January 7, 2013

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Swine flu kills 2 in Beijing, not yet in city as seasonal illness on rise

INFLUENZA cases have risen in Shanghai with the start of the annual peak season, but officials from Shanghai Health Bureau yesterday said the number of cases is under control and there have been no local cases of swine flu, which killed two in Beijing recently.

Beijing reported 28,567 flu patients last week, reaching the highest level since 2008. The peak flu season in China usually corresponds to the coldest months.

Both of those who died in the two swine flu cases had other health problems that may have contributed to their deaths and neither had received flu shots, which help provide swine flu protection, the Beijing health authority said.

A 22-year-old woman started coughing on December 25 and had fever and respiratory difficulty the next day. The woman, who had another, undisclosed illness, died of respiratory failure. A 65-year-old woman with terminal myeloma, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, had a cough and chest distress after catching the virus and died on Friday.

Flu cases represented 2.75 percent of all out-patient and emergency cases at Beijing hospitals last week, The Beijing News reported.

The H1N1 swine flu virus and H3N2 virus are both prevalent in this year's flu cases and swine flu H1N1 has recently strengthened to become a major virus, according to Deng Ying, director of Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

This year's H1N1 swine flu virus is similar to the one in 2009, when there was a global and nationwide outbreak, according to the Beijing CDC. Experts said swine flu is preventable and controllable and a serious outbreak like in 2009 is not expected.

The global epidemic of swine flu started in early 2009 and became prevalent in China that May. The global outbreak ended in the summer of 2010. By February 2010, the Ministry of Health reported 127,000 cases of swine flu in the nation and 793 death cases. The ministry said large-scale use of swine flu vaccination started in late 2009 and early 2010.

Shanghai reported 3,195 cases of swine flu in 2009 including seven death cases. There were 596 swine flu cases in 2010 and 760 cases in 2011. The number of local deaths in 2010 and 2011 was not disclosed yesterday.

Swine flu has become an ordinary seasonal flu, and its prevention and control have been included in annual respiratory disease management each winter and spring, said Dr Lu Hongzhou, vice president of Shanghai Public Health Center and an infectious disease expert.

"Death due to flu is not new and local residents needn't feel panic after Beijing reported two swine flu death cases," he said. "People should be alert and follow proper hygiene habits for flu," Lu said, such as washing hands.

"Those with symptoms should visit doctors promptly. Vulnerable people like children and pregnant women should avoid crowded places," Lu said.


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