A four-year-old boy in Shanghai was discharged from a local hospital today after recovering from the H7N9 bird flu, making him the first patient declared cured of the influenza that’s killed nine people in China.
The boy was diagnosed with H7N9 on April 4, three days after he began suffering from a fever, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The report cited Lu Hongzhou, a professor with the Shanghai Public Health Clinic Center, as saying China’s current methods were effective if patients begin treatment no later than five days after showing flu symptoms.
China confirmed five more infections today, taking the total to 33, as authorities ordered testing at poultry markets nationwide and the culling of bird at locations where the virus is detected. Shanghai, China’s financial hub, has had 15 of the infections and five fatalities.
The new cases reported today included two women in Shanghai, including a 76-year-old retiree who fell ill on April 1 and was hospitalized on April 5, and an 81-year-old farmer who became sick on April 4, the city government’s press office said on its official microblog.
Two other cases were reported in neighboring Jiangsu province today, one of whom was a 70-year-old man from the city of Wuxi who fell ill on March 29 and is in critical condition, and a 74-year-old man from the same city who became sick on April 2, according to a statement on the National Health and Family Planning Commission’s website.
In Zhejiang province, a 65-year-old farmer from the city of Hangzhou was reported as being in stable condition after he was diagnosed with H7N9, the local health agency said.
Anhui province is the only other location in China that has confirmed H7N9 infections. All four regions are in eastern China.
There is still no evidence that the virus is being transmitted from human to human, according to the World Health Organization.
One suspected case of human-to-human transmission has been discounted after a relative of an infected person in Jiangsu who showed signs of sickness twice tested negative for the virus, Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman, said by phone today.
In a second family cluster in Shanghai being investigated by officials, human-to-human transmission will probably be impossible to prove or disprove because of the lack of good samples, Hartl said.
Hong Kong’s health department is “closely monitoring the situation and will continue to maintain close liaison” with mainland health authorities, the government said today in a statement. No cases of H7N9 have been identified so far in Hong Kong, it said.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences’ findings show that the genes of H7N9 come from wild birds in East Asia and chickens from eastern China, Xinhua said today. Pigs aren’t intermediate hosts as no genes of the virus were traced back to swine, according to the report.
H7N9 is being driven by at least two closely related viruses, a situation that may make it more difficult to contain in humans and birds, researchers said.
The strain has shown signs of genetic diversity since the first three patients were diagnosed, said Richard Webby, director of a WHO collaborating center for the virus at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. It already appears more infectious than the H5N1 strain of bird flu that has been circulating since 2003, infecting 600 people and killing 60 percent of them, he said.
— With assistance by Daryl Loo