In the latest update it is being reported that Dr Zhang died so rapidly because there was no Extra-Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine available. It is also being claimed that his obesity was a co-factor in his decline.
Much as it sounds, ECMO is an artificial lung; it is a last ditch effort to keep someone alive. Unfortunately ECMO machines are expensive and expert manpower intensive; as such ECMO machines are short in supply and extremely prone to being overwhelmed in any sort of pandemic. Supposedly there are only roughly 400 ECMO machines in the United States.
The hospital is reporting that they have had no H7N9 patients and therefore Dr Zhang's infection was supposedly not Human to Human. However, given his last indirect exposure to poultry was almost 8 days prior, it is Six Sigma unlikely that birds were the source of his infection. The Chinese appear to be engaging in deliberate obfuscation when it comes to publicly analyzing the data, they have a strong social order / fear reason to downplay human to human transmission, especially during Chinese New Year celebrations & travels.
Frankly, it would have been much more reassuring if Dr Zhang had knowingly treated a H7N9 patient during one of his Emergency surgeries, as this would have been a known blood borne exposure route. In that regard, we have surmised he was infected while performing an appendectomy.
Given the newly obtained information from his hospital, the odds are even higher now that there is a on going and hidden H7N9 human to human transmission chain. One thing is clear, our medical system is not able to handle even a small uptick in demand for ECMO machines, even the current H1N1 swine flu outbreak is tasking availability.
H7N9 has the potential to kill billions of people, but it is not there yet. People in China are not yet dropping like flies, but that is no guarantee that H7N9 won't behave differently once it gets outside of China. The situation is worth watching and preparing for, but not yet at the point where risk mitigation should be significantly taxing to household finances. Of course, people with preexisting medical conditions may be at greater risk.