2 Beijing children released from hospital after scare with H7N9 virus

Photo above: A medical worker in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province, demonstrates how to use a protection suit against the bird flu virus on Wednesday

CHINA - Both Beijing residents, a boy and a girl, who were infected with the H7N9 bird flu virus were discharged from Ditan Hospital on Wednesday.

A 4-year-old boy, the second person diagnosed, tested negative two consecutive times and has maintained a normal body temperature, hospital Vice-President Cheng Jun said.

Meanwhile, Zhong Dongbo, deputy director of the city health bureau, said the vigilance of healthcare workers and the father of the first victim saved the 7-year-old girl's life.

The girl's first throat-swab test was negative for the virus. The hospital did a second test after the girl's temperature rose to 40.2 C on April 11 and found evidence of a flu infection shortly before sending the specimen to authorities.

Usually, throat-swab tests are conducted only once a day, Zhong said. He said that the girl's father, who sells poultry, sent his daughter to the hospital soon after she showed symptoms because of public warnings from city authorities about the disease.

"We informed the agricultural authority about the virus, and they soon alerted all residents in close contact with poultry," he said. "The father was alarmed and drove the girl directly to the hospital after she showed symptoms."

The city tests throat swabs of people who go to hospitals with flu-like symptoms and monitors the health of people whose job involves handling poultry. It will expand the throat-swab tests to some who do not have flu-like symptoms.

"We are taking random samples from 500 people in Miyun, Yanqing and Huairou, where there is more developed agriculture than other districts," Zhong said. "It's not cost-effective to cover everyone all over Beijing.

"We are testing in the areas where we are most likely to find H7N9 infections so that the city's money can be used where it's most needed," he said. The sampling will help authorities figure out how the virus develops, including whether it can effectively be transmitted between humans, he added.

Feng Zijian, director of the health emergency centre of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, applauded the city's actions.

"Expanded virus testing in Beijing is welcome, particularly when our understanding about the virus in aspects like source, transmission modes, and severity remains limited," Feng said.

But he ruled out the possibility of using such methods in other parts of the country.

"If you show flu-like symptoms such as a fever and cough, go to a hospital and tell the doctor if you have been exposed to poultry lately," Zhong advised, emphasizing that more cases of infection are likely to occur, and the city's government "is preparing for the worst."