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Below is an email I received today from a reader in Australia. I am neutral on the topic, at least for now, but quite curious. Maybe someone in the know can contradict or verify it. If its numbers are accurate, they raise some important questions.
I work in the health sector and I have been monitoring the rates of H1N1 pandemic influenza in Asia since the infection appeared in May. I have been puzzled by the odd disparity in cases and fatalities in China compared to the rest of Asia. Here’s why, based on my own figures compiled on reported deaths in each country:
H1N1 influenza deaths/population (millions) = deaths per million
India 212/1,148 = 0.18
South Korea 5/49 = 0.10
Hong Kong 13/7 = 1.85
Taiwan 11/22 = 0.5
Vietnam 6/86 = 0.07
Philippines 28\96 = 0.3
Thailand 153/65 = 2.3
Japan 20/127 = 0.15
China 0/1,330,044,544 = 0
See a pattern emerging here? Very rough figures, but most countries seem to have a H1N1 pandemic flu mortality rate in the range of 0.1-0.5 per million population. Based on these rates, we would expect China to have 100-650 H1N1 deaths by now, or around 200 deaths as seen in other countries in the region with a similar population, such as India. And yet China has reported no H1N1 deaths at all, except for one in a woman from Zhejiang who was said to have recovered from the flu.
There are several possibilities here.
1. Have China’s quarantine policies been successful?
2. Is there a H1N1 influenza virus with Chinese characteristics that is less virulent?
3. Do Chinese people have some special immunity or life-saving treatment for influenza that other Asians lack?
4. Is China not reporting its 200+ swine flu deaths – perhaps because of a desire to avoid bad news in the run up to the forthcoming October 1 Anniversary?
I am surprised that none of the medical experts at WHO has commented on China’s immunity to swine flu. I would have expected SARS veteran Dr Margaert Chan to be very interested in any country that managed to achieve a zero mortality from what she described as a possible calamity.
I would be interested in what your readers have to say, and whether anyone ‘on the ground’ in China has other information.
I did a quick search and noticed a dearth of coverage of any swine flu deaths in China. Zero, to be precise. I did find a blog that had been questioning this, only to be blocked in China for its efforts.
Yet Xinhua’s reports are almost always just body counts: how many people are reported ill in one country or another. (For decades, Chinese media have been happy to report on disasters outside China.) And while Xinhua’s reported over 9,000 H1N1 cases in China itself as of mid-September, it still claims no one has died from the disease. Hong Kong, meanwhile, has reported over twice as many cases and 13 deaths.
(Currently, it appears China is actively blocking my site — and my other blogs as well. And all I’ve done is express surprise, not disbelief, at the lack of deaths.)
I’ll remain neutral until I know for sure whether mainland China has really reported no deaths from H1N1. If that turns out to be accurate, I’ll lean toward No. 4 on the list above, which strikes me as most likely considering both the improbability of the other three possibilities, coupled with China’s past history of
lying about not being totally upfront about disease on the mainland. Is there a 5th possibility? Update: It’s apparently true that China has registered zero deaths from H1N1. Striking that – link referred to Beijing, not all of China.