Bird Flu Death Toll Rises Alongside Censored Online Comments

April 9, 2013 10:25 am Last Updated: April 10, 2013 11:26 pm

An eighth person has died from the H7N9 bird flu strain out of 24 people infected, according to the latest official figures from the Chinese regime.

Most of the cases are in eastern China’s Yangtze River delta region, with eight in Jiangsu, two in Anhui, three in Zhejiang, and eleven in Shanghai, where five of the deaths occurred.

Communist Party leader Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang sent a message to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, urging officials to “do well with assisting patients,” and in disease control and prevention, the Ministry of Health posted on its website Sunday.

In Hong Kong, several suspected cases of bird flu were being tested for the virus, the South China Morning Post reported Monday.

The China representative for the World Health Organization said at a Beijing press conference Monday that there is still no evidence of “sustained human-to-human transmission.” A health official added that 621 people who have been in close contact with patients are being monitored with no abnormalities observed.

WHO is preparing to send international experts to China to assist with investigating the deadly new virus, and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has warned consumers to avoid live poultry markets where birds are butchered.

Internet Censored

Hong Kong news reporters and Beijing health workers blogged cautious warnings of their own, which were quickly deleted from Weibo by content checkers.

Around 6 p.m. on April 5, a netizen said on his microblog that Hong Kong reporters at a range of newspapers were being called back from the mainland. A cell phone screen shot showing Oriental Daily’s internal email notice was published alongside the message. The post was promptly deleted. 

Another Weibo post suggested the virus may have spread to Beijing. A hospital postdoctoral student sent a serious online message to friends in the capital to take care. “I can’t say anything, just to remind Beijing friends to be careful. Hope you can understand, my hands are trembling.” A netizen shared the post, before it was deleted. 

A third post, which soon disappeared, compared the new bird flu strain with the 2003 SARS epidemic, which was under-reported by the Communist Party. “Ten years ago, the biggest lesson our fellow countrymen learned from SARS is that our biggest enemy is not the virus, but covering up the truth; the best medicine is not steroids but transparency and trust.”

Cause of Spread

Lin Huatai, a senior veterinary physician, told The Epoch Times in an interview that the current flu virus has probably been mutating for years, given that bird flus have been allowed to run unchecked for years in China. He spoke using an alias due to the political sensitivity of the subject. 

He said that in April and May 2012 “there was a very severe bird flu outbreak in Shijiazhuang, Hebei. The death rate was 80 percent. The symptoms lasted 2-3 months. No media made a sound about this incident, and people suffered tremendous loss” of livestock, he said.  

Liu added that “bird flu happens all year long, erupting here and there. H7N9 is the result of years of evolution. Since November 2012, bird flu has spread from eastern China to the southwest, including Henan, Shanxi, Shannxi, and the ducks in Sichuan. It was an epidemic explosion.” 

Given that the virus is airborne, Liu said the risk of it spreading to humans was high. “The air and respiratory droplets for sure carry the virus. Once people breathe in and accumulate a certain amount of virus, flu symptoms break out.”

He added: “The virus that caused the outbreak in Shanghai certainly went through this pathological pathway: the virus infected the birds first, then it spread into the air, and then was breathed in by people. Recently the smog was really bad, which certainly helped the virus to spread.” 

Translation by Frank Fang. Written in English by Carol Wickenkamp.

Read the original Chinese article. 

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