Entries in Adenovirus (1)

All eyes on Hebei Province, China as mystery illness provokes government action

Sharon Sanders and the posters at Flutrackers are reporting some pretty weird events in Hebai Province, China.  First, let's locate Hebei on the map.

 A series of seemingly disassociated events, when viewed at a higher level (as Sharon has done in her Flutracker posts), paints a picture of Hebei as in some sort of state of emergency (my words).  Shops closed by force.  People required to wear masks.  A thousand police officers dispatched to maintain discipline.  And, in the most stark post yet, occupancy at the regional hospital exceeding 100% and an isolation ward erected.

Official (meaning government) reports coming from the region speak of the virus actually being Adenovirus 55, and not the dreaded (and rumored) SARS virus.  We know the Case Fatality Rate from SARS hovered, eventually, around 10% of the sick.  A hospital filled with a thousand sick would produce at least a hundred dead, if the virus were SARS.  Rumors and slim media accounts seem to converge on just one person dead so far.

What we know of Adenovirus 55 is limited, but growing.  A paper that was published in 2009speaks of the first (and until now, last) major outbreak of Ad55.  Ad55 will produce some serious respiratory distress, but blessedly, only one death in 254 infected Chinese students in Shaanxi Province, China.  Here's the map showing the location of Shaanxi:


As you see, Shaanxi is two provinces over from Hebei.  I do not think it would be much of a stretch to say that this entire region may want to re-evaluate all its respiratory distress cases and outbreaks since 2005 to see if Ad55, instead of flu, could be an explanation.

Of course, what fascinates me is that China was able to come up with a positive diagnosis of Ad55 so quickly.  Long-time readers of this Blog (if I still have any!) know that I have been campaigning for testing for Ad14, which has a long and ugly reputation in military bases all over America, and hospitals in the Pacific Northwest.  As the medical report from 2009 attests, a "tsunami" (their words) of genetic information relative to Adenovirus is pouring in to researchers.  Good!  Maybe we will begin to take Adenovirus more seriously. 

In the meantime, it is also interesting to see what lengths the Chinese government will go to try to isolate anything that even remotely resembles SARS.  The government's zeal to prevent or mitigate the spread of an infectious disease is "disconcertingly refreshing."  Feel free to use that phrase.  It is troubling, no doubt, to see government trucks rolling into a province, and that has to evoke bad memories for the residents.  From a global perspective, however, and especially in light of the aftereffects of the film "Contagion," any attempt to contain a pathogen and prevent it from spreading is  appreciated, as long as the actions are 1) justified, 2) non-lethal, and 3) abandoned, once the pathogen is proved to be relatively harmless.