The Jiaming Center, a slick office building in Beijing's central business district, is taking no chances in the face of a possible epidemic caused by the H7N9 bird flu. Home to public relations firms, foreign newspapers, pharmaceutical companies, and consultants, the building now also has a half-dozen Purell-filled hand sanitizers scattered around the ground floor, and a sign in the bathrooms announcing that the sink and environs are "disinfected every two hours."
None of that caution was apparent just a week ago. But since authorities still don’t know how humans are catching the disease or whether it can spread from human to human, the anxiety level over this latest bird flu is high. Though there have not yet been any reported cases in China’s capital, 38 people on the country’s east coast have been infected and ten of them have died.
"It was amazing just how quickly this grabbed everyone's attention," says Dr. Richard Saint Cyr, a family physician with Beijing United Family Hospital who writes a popular English-language health blog here. "From day one we were getting a lot of phone calls from nervous patients, and we quickly started to update our community via our website and dozens of social media outlets." Staff members, he says, were concerned for colleagues at a sister hospital in Shanghai.