May 11, 2009

China Sees First Flu Case, US Has Most Infections

This weekend, Chinese authorities confirmed the country's first case of swine flu on the mainland despite having enforced some of the most stringent and controversial precautionary measures of any government.

The young man, identified for the time being only as Mr. Bao, is a 30-year-old student who had recently returned from a trip to the United States.  Health officials say he traveled from St. Louis through Tokyo and Beijing before landing in Chengdu on Saturday.

According to national media outlets, Mr. Bao has been admitted to an infectious disease hospital in Chengdu.

The Chinese Ministry of Health has begun searching for people who have been in contact with the man and may be potential new carriers of the virus.  Health officials have asked regional authorities across the country to assist them in their efforts.

Some 130 passengers who were aboard Bao's flight to Chengdu have already been quarantined by state officials as a precautionary measure, says the state media.

In previous health crises, Chinese officials had been heavily criticized by international health organizations for not being proactive enough in preventing the spread of disease.  During the current swine flu crisis, China has by contrast responded swiftly and decisively.  This time, however, a number of critics have denounced its intervention tactics as excessive and draconian.

Anyone who was suspected of having been in contact with Mr. Bao has been placed in mandatory medical isolation for seven days.

Chinese officials sparked a diplomatic row in early April when they detained and quarantined more than a hundred Mexican nationals traveling through the country, none of whom had exhibited flu symptoms or been in contact with anyone infected with the virus

Chinese officials let of the Mexican passengers return home last week amongst increasingly heated international protest.


Meanwhile in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Sunday that they had confirmed 2,532 cases of the H1N1 swine influenza in 44 states, making the U.S. the country with the highest number of infections worldwide.

These figures came as the World Health Organization also announced the U.S.'s third flu-related death.

Anne Schuchat of the CDC has warned that the current statistics could still be low.

"Today there are almost 3,000 probable and confirmed cases here in the United States"¦ The good news is we are not seeing a rise above the epidemic threshold," she said.

The most recent flu-related death in the U.S. involved a Washington resident in his 30's who officials say had been suffering from underlying heart disease and viral pneumonia.

The overwhelming majority of U.S. infections have been mild, with less than 3 percent of infections requiring hospitalization, usually for symptoms such as diarrhea and high fever.

Image Courtesy UPI


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