The health bureau of eastern Jiangsu province said three women and a retired man from different cities in the province were all critically ill with the H7N9 virus, a diagnosis confirmed by the provincial disease prevention center. The cases are the second batch to be confirmed after three in Anhui province and nearby Shanghai on Sunday.
The reports of the new cases suggest that authorities are taking a closer look at severe flu cases after identifying the first known infections on Sunday. All of the new patients have been sick since about March 19, when they had fevers, coughs and other flu-like symptoms. Their conditions worsened over periods of time ranging from a week to 11 days and they were transferred to intensive care units in the provincial capital, Nanjing.
Only one of the patients appeared to have had daily contact with birds — a 45-year-old woman who was described as a poultry butcher. The four cases did not appear to be connected, and other people who have had close contact with the patients have not reported having fevers or respiratory problems.
The three earlier cases reported Sunday included two men who died in Shanghai, resulting in the city activating an emergency plan that calls for heightened monitoring of suspicious flu cases. Under the plan, schools, hospitals and retirement facilities are to be on alert for fevers, and administrators are to report to health authorities if there are more than five cases of flu in a week.
Health officials said this week there was no evidence that any of the three earlier cases, who were infected over the past two months, had contracted the disease from each other, and no sign of infections in the 88 people who had closest contact with them.
Scientists are closely monitoring these viruses for fear they could mutate into a strain that easily spreads among people, but there’s no evidence of that occurring.
ProMED Digest V2013 #144: www.promedmail.org