The steady pace of new H7N9 influenza infections in China continued today with reports of six more cases, one of them fatal, and the first notification of the year from Fujian province, the country's fourth to detect the novel virus over the past several weeks.
Two of the patients are from southern China's Guangdong province, which seems to be a hotspot of H7N9 activity, which started picking up again in October after a lull over the late spring and summer.
In a related development today, animal health officials in Guangdong reported more H7N9 findings from a restaurant and some live poultry markets, according to media reports.
Hong Kong supplies details
Details on the six new cases were reported today in two separate statements from Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP). The patients from Guangdong are both from Foshan and are a 42-year-old woman who works with poultry and a 59-year-old woman.
The two women have mild infections, according to a report from Xinhua, China's state news agency. Today's official notices and media reports contained no details about poultry exposure in the other new cases.
Two of the new patients are from Zhejiang province, a 30-year-old man and a 79-year-old woman, both of whom are in critical condition, according to the CHP.
In a separate statement, the CHP said a 54-year-old man from the Jiangsu province city of Nanjing started having symptoms on Dec 28 and was hospitalized on Jan 5, where he is currently in serious condition.
The latest death from the disease is related to a newly reported case from Fujian province, in a 38-year-old man from Quanzhou who had an underlying medical condition, according to the CHP. His infection is the first H7N9 case reported in Fujian since late April.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) today acknowledged that it received reports of two other H7H9 cases that were detected over the past week, those involving a 65-year-old man reported on Jan 8 as Hong Kong's third infection imported from the mainland and a 51-year-old woman from Zhejiang province, whose illness was first reported yesterday.
Today's new H7N9 cases raise the unofficial total of infections in the outbreak to 163 and the death toll to 50. Fifteen cases have been reported since the first of the year by China and its close neighbors.
Restaurant samples contaminated
In other developments, the H7N9 virus has been found in environmental samples from a restaurant and near wet markets in Guangdong, Want China Times, an English news Web site based in Taiwan, reported today. The report cited Southcn.com, a Guangdong-based news Web site.
Three of 17 samples from a restaurant in Guangzhou tested positive for the virus, according to the report, which also said a recently confirmed H7N9 patient had delivered live chickens from Foshan to the eatery. Two of the three samples were from poultry, and another was from a chopping board. Authorities have sterilized the restaurant and have found no illnesses among the restaurant staff.
Four positive samples were also found in testing near Guangzhou wet markets in Zecheng and Zuhan districts, according to the story.
Also, 8 of 34 samples taken outside a wet market in the city of Shantou's Jinping district were positive for the virus, according to the Times report.
Jan 10 CHP statement
Jan 10 CHP statement on Fujian and Jiangsu cases
Jan 10 Xinhua story
Jan 10 WHO statement
Jan 10 Want China Times story