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Official: Deaths not sign flu virus is out of control

By Wang Qingyun | China Daily | Updated: 2013-01-07 07:41

Two people have died in Beijing since late December after contracting a flu virus that caused a global panic in 2009.

Yet, despite its potential for harm, the virus - initially known as swine flu - is not as threatening as it was originally and can be contained, according to Beijing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both victims of the influenza A, or H1N1, virus were already in poor health when they contracted it, said Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the organization.

One was a 22-year-old with anemia, the other was a 65-year-old at the terminal stage of bone marrow cancer, she said.

The city tested 375 influenzalike samples from Dec 24 to 30. Of those, 92 came back with positive readings for flu virus, Deng Ying, director of the centers, said on Saturday.

"The positive rate was 24.53 percent," Deng said. "Influenza A virus has become much more active."

The virus was discovered in 2009 and spread quickly across the world, claiming more than 80 lives in Beijing that year and in 2010.

Monitoring also showed that the number of patients who exhibited influenzalike symptoms from Dec 24 to 30 was greater than it had been in the same period in any year since 2008, Deng said.

Flu viruses may pose a greater threat during this unusually cold winter. Still, the disease's prevalence has been within expectations, she said.

She said fewer than 5,000 flulike cases have been reported a day on average this winter, down from the peak in 2007, when more than 7,000 cases were reported on average each day.

Even so, it's unlikely H1N1 will prove harmless in 2013, Pang said.

"Back in 2009, most people were very susceptible to the newly discovered virus," she said. "But until now, many of us could fend it off. We had already been infected with it and hence had developed an immunity to it."

"The H1N1 flu is very similar to a seasonal flu - its activity changes with the seasons. It's just as dangerous as various other viruses, such as H3N2 flu virus and adenovirus (a common cause of respiratory diseases)."

Late last year, the city continued its annual practice of inoculating primary and high school students and people who were 60 and older.

The policy led to the vaccination of about 75 percent of the student population and 50 percent of people aged 60 and older, thus making a large outbreak of the disease unlikely, Pang said.

The inoculations can help prevent H1N1 flu, H3N2 flu and influenza B.

Those not helped by the policy can pay for inoculations at more than 400 stations throughout the city, Pang said.


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