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April 3, 2013

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Shanghai activates emergency action plan

SHANGHAI activated an emergency plan yesterday that calls for heightened monitoring of suspicious flu cases following the recent deaths of two men from a lesser-known strain of bird flu.

Under the contingency plan, schools, hospitals and retirement facilities are to be on the alert for fevers, and administrators are to report to health authorities if there are more than five cases of flu in a week.

Cases of severe pneumonia with unclear causes are to be reported daily by hospitals to health bureaus, up from the weekly norm.

The plan also calls for stronger monitoring of people who work at poultry farms or are exposed to birds.

The emergency plan reflects higher concern after the H7N9 bird flu virus led to the deaths of the two men in the city.

"The city will take effective and powerful measures to prevent and control the disease, to make sure the flu epidemic is effectively guarded against and to safeguard the health of the local residents," said Xu Jianguang, head of the Shanghai Health Bureau.

Shanghai Public Health Center, the city's leading infectious diseases hospital, has been designated the hospital for patients with H7N9.

Officials reiterated the city's ban on live waterfowl sales and said the food and drug authority is to step up monitoring of restaurants and their poultry purchases.

Local poultry meat and pork is safe, officials said, but they suggested residents make sure their food is properly cooked and not to eat wild poultry.

Wet market pork dealer

The two Shanghai patients, aged 87 and 27, became ill in late February and died in early March. Both lived in Minhang District and had gone to the Shanghai No. 5 People's Hospital for treatment, but otherwise there was no connection.

On Sunday, health experts confirmed the men had been infected by the H7N9 virus.

The 27-year-old was a pork dealer in a wet market.

Wu Fan, director of the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said it was the first human infection with the virus.

"We so far are not clear whether it is humans infected with bird flu or if the virus has mutated to a human virus with the effect of spreading among human beings."

"It is a new and less-known virus and we so far don't know the source and its animal host," Wu said. "By now, all close contacts of the two patients have finished their two-week medical observation at home. No one was detected with flu-like symptoms."

Experts had been monitoring 46 of the men's closest contacts.

Wu defended the delay in announcing the cases, around three weeks after the second man died.

"Under the current situation, to identify a new virus in 20 days is an extremely short time, in my opinion," Wu said.

Officials from Shanghai Agricultural Commission said yesterday that the city had carried out citywide checks on bird flu after the two H7N9 cases were reported.

Currently, there is no bird flu in poultry or any disease in pigs. Concern had been raised that there might have been a connection between the two cases and the discovery of thousands of dead pigs floating in the Huangpu River last month.

But officials said yesterday that just-completed testing of carcasses was negative.


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