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With reports that another person has died from the H7N9 bird flu virus, questions are starting to mount over the official response to this brand new disease.
On Wednesday, health authorities in Zhejiang reported the first two cases of H7N9 virus in the province. One of the patients, a former chef, passed away on March 27.
Already in that eastern region of China, nine cases of this strain have been officially confirmed. But unofficially, there have been reports that the situation could be much worse.
On Tuesday (April 2) Chinese author Ge Hongbing posted this message on his Weibo microblog account. He said that the contagious diseases office of the People’s Liberation Army 301 Hospital have issued an emergency notice. The missive said that three people have died in Shanghai from the H7N9, and that almost 100 have been infected.
This post has now been deleted, but Shanghai residents want answers.
[Mr. Guo, Shanghai Resident] “The government always withholds information. The public is in a panic. Some people are scared to buy meat and poultry. Why? Well, all the dead pigs that were floating in the Huangpu River, but the government said it had no impact on the water. No one believed it, the public is fed up.”
As of Wednesday, Shanghai authorities have only reported two H7N9 deaths, and say there are no other cases.
Hong Kong’s Wenweipo newspaper reported on Tuesday that a doctor at the hospital where the two patients died says there has been a sudden increase in pneumonia cases. The two fatal cases in Shanghai both developed pneumonia, a symptom of the H7N9 virus.
Shanghai authorities have also denied that the discovery of this new strain of bird flu is linked to the 16,000 dead pigs in the city’s water. That conclusion was based on the testing of 34 of the dead pig carcasses.
There is currently no vaccine against H7N9. Chinese authorities say they are still investigating where the virus came from.