Shanghai health officials today reported another death from the H7N9 flu virus, in a man whose infection was first announced in early April and whose wife was among the first in the city to die from the disease.
The 56-year-old man whose surname was Gu died early this morning, raising the number of outbreak fatalities in China to 40, according to a report from Xinhua, China's state news agency. His case had been confirmed on Apr 11.
The man's 52-year-old wife died from an H7N9 infection on Apr 3, according to previous reports. Family-cluster infections aren't surprising in outbreak settings and can result from common exposures or human-to-human contact.
So far the man and his wife are the only known couple to be infected in the outbreak. In a May 15 report, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that the couple's 26-year-old daughter, Kelly Gu, who is a doctoral student in France, said her mother was probably infected on her daily trip to the market near the couple's home in Shanghai.
She questioned the treatment her mother received early in the outbreak and said the woman had been sick for 5 days before China's government announced the H7N9 outbreak, according to AFP. Gu said her father had been sedated and on a ventilator.
Gu also made headlines on Apr 22 when she spoke up at a press conference in Shanghai with health officials and a visiting team from the World Health Organization (WHO). She asked about possible treatments for her father, but health officials stopped her before she finished, according to the AFP report.
Researchers are still assessing the severity as the H7N9 outbreak, and although no new cases have been reported since the end of May, some patients sickened earlier in the outbreak are still hospitalized. The latest assessment by a team from China in a Jun 24 issue of The Lancet said H7N9 infections are less serious than earlier assessments, with more mild infections than previously thought.
So far the virus has sickened 131 people, all but one from China. Taiwan reported a case in a man who had traveled to the outbreak area in China, which puts the global total at 132.
Jun 26 Xinhua story
May 15 AFP story
Jun 24 CIDRAP News story "New studies fine-tune H7N9 severity estimates"