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Chinese hospital pays settlement with father of second bird flu death

Dr. Henry Niman may have stumbled onto something interesting.  In his Recombinomics commentary of Saturday, he has identified a cash settlement from the hospital treating the first known H7N9 patients. 

Dr. Niman cited an article from the South China Morning Post.  Here's the headline and some copy:

Dead man's family claims bird flu cover-up by hospital

Wu Demao was bewildered when he heard that his son-in-law, Wu Liangliang, who died on March 10 at Shanghai No 5 People's Hospital, was a victim of H7N9 bird flu.

"No one has so far officially informed us of the true cause of his death," Wu said. "It was one of our relatives who told us that the local television had reported that my son-in-law died of a new strain of bird flu."

Wu Liangliang, 27, from Yancheng in Jiangsu, was the second man found to have caught H7N9 flu in Shanghai, the city government announced at a press conference on Tuesday, giving only his family name.

He arrived in Shanghai in February to visit his parents-in-law and helped Wu Demao, a pork vendor at a wet market on Jinggu Road in Minhang district.

Wu Liangliang suffered from high fever in late February and initial treatment by a nearby clinic and the No5 People's Hospital proved unsuccessful. He was admitted on March 1.

 Doctors told the family he had pneumonia and he was not put into quarantine, Wu Demao said. (Bold mine)

The hospital paid the family 130,000 yuan (HK$161,000) in compensation on March 26, saying it was for humanitarian reasons and for its minor responsibility in Wu Liangliang's treatment, without elaborating.

As we call it in the good ol' U. S. of A.:  This is a settlement.  Or a payoff. Somehow, the hospital found it necessary to compensate the family for the young man's death. 

Now why would the hospital proffer such an offer?  Perhaps it is because they feel responsible for the young man's death.  From Dr. Niman's commentary:

The above comments describe a payment to the family of the second H7N9 case (27M) who lived in the Minghang District and died at the Shanghai Number Five People’s Hospital in Minhang.  The first confirmed case (87M) was also treated on the same floor of the hospital.  In addition, his two sons (69M and 55M) were also treated at the hospital, so the family of the second victim claimed that their relative had been infected at the hospital by one of the three family members being treated at the hospital.

SARS was transmitted to unwitting patients via the HVAC systems in hospitals.  This happened in both China and Toronto.  Because they were in normal hospitals and not in negative-pressure isolation, the HVAC systems carried the virus to adjacent rooms -- and innocent patients who were there for unrelated reasons. 

In other cases, SARS virus was carried by the medical personnel themselves, who were unaware that a novel coronavirius was being spread by their own interaction with patients.

It appears that the latter may have been the case here.  The hospital, with its settlement, is inferring some culpability in the young man's death. 

It also raises more questions about the route of transmissibility of this virus.  We know influenza is transmissible from contact with contaminated solid surfaces.  This unique case would seem to indicate that the virus can be spread by more than just inhaling a chicken or a pigeon.  The young man was in a wet market, but working pork, not birds (hmmm...).  Lord knows, a wet market has lots of opportunity for comtamination.  trhat is why the Chinese have, basically, shut down all wet markets and eliminated the poultry and disinfected the markets.

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