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Beijing Prepares for Avian Flu

Posted on by Laurie Garrett

A decade after the deadly SARS virus wrought havoc in Beijing and other Chinese cities, hospitals in China’s capital are gearing up in the event that another pandemic begins to spread. Following news that at least two men in Shanghai have died from the H7N9 avian flu virus—the first known human deaths from the virus—the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Public Health released a statement that medical facilities in China’s capital are now taking extra precautions to screen for the virus, as Xinhua News reported on Tuesday.

Beijing hospitals are already stocking up on relevant medical equipment, stepping up screenings, and preparing for the possibility of avian flu-related emergencies. No cases of avian flu in humans have been confirmed in Beijing as of Tuesday, according to state media.

In the age of social media, however, rumors that bird flu has come to Beijing are flying fast and thick, setting off a wave of popular panic. In particular, a widely circulated post on Tencent’s (700) social-media platform Weixin suggests that avian flu victims may have already been admitted to Beijing’s Dongzhimen Hospital. Some anxious workers in Beijing are opting to work from home, ingest Vitamin C supplements, and take further precautions believed to minimize the risk of becoming infected. In a nation whose citizens have learned to routinely distrust official media, it is hard to contain public fear. And those fears may just turn out to be justified.

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