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Beijing avoids panic over H7N9

By Zhang Zihan (Global Times)

10:54, April 17, 2013

A woman cycles past a shop run by the family of an H7N9-infected boy on Monday in Naidong village, Chaoyang district. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Villagers in Chaoyang district rocked by the new H7N9 strain of avian flu have downplayed fears a day after a local boy was identified as China's first symptom-free carrier of the virus.

A 4-year-old boy surnamed Zhu from Naidong village was revealed on Monday to be infected with the virus, despite not showing any obvious signs. His family runs a local business selling live fish and chicken.

Zhu had been examined by doctors on Sunday because his neighbor had previously bought poultry sold by the family of a 7-year-old girl identified as Beijing's first H7N9 patient, said Zhong Dongbo, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau at a press briefing.

On Monday, a Global Times reporter who visited Naidong found villagers were calm yet cautious following the outbreak. Many chose to wear masks, with a poultry and fish vendor's shop using a cloth to obscure the word "poultry" on its signboard.

During a follow-up visit on Tuesday, no masked villagers were seen by a Global Times reporter. Villagers conducted business as usual, with poultry products visibly displayed at stalls. The main sign of caution was a van driven by a local villager to keep people away from Zhu's home.

Zhu's 46-year-old neighbor, surnamed Wang, told the Global Times she was not fazed by the virus. "We have been informed that H7N9 can't be transmitted between people. So far, my family and I feel well," said Wang.

Another one of Zhu's neighbors, a 38-year-old man surnamed Huang, said he was confident with health authorities' handling of the situation.

"A loudspeaker in our village broadcasts daily addresses about avian flu prevention. Furthermore, medics have disinfected the whole village by spraying sanitizing solution," he said.

An official from Naidong's village Party committee told the Global Times that the disinfection campaign would span one week.

"The shop run by Zhu's family has been cleaned and disinfected. We have disinfected the entire village. Villagers have expressed their full understanding of our efforts and shown no trace of panic," said the official, who requested anonymity.

Zhu has been under strict observation at Ditan Hospital since he was admitted on Sunday, according to Zhong. "His vital signs are strong, and so far no symptoms have been identified," he said.

Zhong also told reporters that Beijing's first identified H7N9 patient, a 7-year-old girl from Shunyi district, is recovering well.

"She has been transferred from the intensive care unit to an ordinary ward. By Thursday, she will be able to leave hospital," he said.

Cheng Jun, deputy president of Ditan Hospital, said Zhu's case had proven not all carriers of H7N9 show immediate symptoms.

"It also proves that with timely medical treatment, the virus can be stabilized," Cheng told the Global Times. "The strain of virus discovered in Zhu and the 7-year-old girl is identical to samples discovered in H7N9 patients in South China. So far, no trace of virus mutation has been discovered."

Zhong echoed calls for calm by reiterating that so far there has been no threat of human-to-human transmission of the avian flu. "In Beijing's two H7N9 cases, the parents of both patients have not been infected. Their only common characteristic is that they came into contact with poultry," he said.

Latest development of H7N9 in China[Special]

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