Reporters in front of the intensive care unit at a hospital in Nanjing where an H7N9 patient is being treated. (File photo/Xinhua)
The first two victims of the new H7N9 strain of avian influenza in China, a father surnamed Li and his youngest son, were given treatment for SARS, according to Hong Kong's Ta Kung Pao. Their family members reportedly did not know they had contracted the virus until they saw the news on television. The family's eldest son, who was sent to hospital along with his father and brother, was also treated and has since been released.
The youngest son was the first to become ill and was sent to Shanghai's Fifth People's Hospital on Feb. 19. The hospital told the family that he was infected with a virus much stronger than SARS but gave him the same treatment for the respiratory disease. The father and eldest son later also developed symptoms and were given the same treatment by the hospital. The youngest son and the father succumbed to the then-unknown disease but the eldest son survived and was treated for common influenza, according to the newspaper.
The family was unaware that H7N9 was the cause of the deaths until a month later when it was reported by the media. They are seeking compensation from the hospital.
The hospital said experts examined the father and the two sons after they presented unusual symptoms. It reported their condition to the local center for disease control in accordance with standard protocols. The hospital refused to disclose more details about the treatments the three patients received when they were admitted in order to protect their safety, according to Ta Kung Pao.
A message saying several patients had died of a mysterious disease at the hospital was posted on the internet on March 7. The post said the initial diagnosis said the patients were suffering respiratory failure and called on the hospital to reveal the full truth. The post was later deleted but the hospital and Shanghai health bureau released a joint statement saying that they had ruled out that the father and sons had an infectious disease contracted passed between fowl and humans. The hospital clarified later that the statement was referring to H5N1 avian influenza. The new subtype H7N9 had not been identified at the time.
The hospital did not implement any special measures after the two deaths. Patients can walk about freely and no wards have been quarantined.
Another hospital in the same district is also said to have received patients with the H7N9 virus. Five patients were reportedly admitted recently presenting symptoms of an unidentified pneumonia. A manager of the hospital was reportedly surprised when she was asked to comment on the claim, refuting the rumor and saying the hospital has not taken in patients with the new bird flu strain.