China quiet as a bird on bird flu policy

I don’t think anyone who lived in China during the SARS period could be at all surprised to see the government is still not a shining example of openness, despite the threat of a global pandemic.

As governments in North America and Europe grow increasingly worried about the possibility of a global epidemic of bird flu, one crucial player is China. Yet for now, much of what the country is doing to manage a possible epidemic is a mystery.

China is not only the world’s most populous nation, but also the world’s biggest poultry producer. It has a quarter of the world’s chickens, two-thirds of the world’s domesticated ducks and almost nine-tenths of the world’s domesticated geese, statistics from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization show.

The first known case of the A(H5N1) strain of avian influenza was found in 1996 in a goose in China.

While the Beijing authorities insist that no poultry in the country has the disease now, Hong Kong University scientists who have studied the genetic evolution of the virus wrote in Nature in July that infected migratory birds in western China appeared to have contracted the disease in southern China; the virus has since spread from western China to East Asia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Romania.

The Chinese health authorities in Beijing have called repeatedly for vigilance against the disease. But they have refused to share virus samples from infected wild birds this year with international organizations and have quarreled with researchers who have suggested that the disease remains a problem.

Shigeru Omi, the World Health Organization regional director for the Western Pacific, called Friday for countries to share samples more quickly.

“Without those samples, we cannot know if the virus is mutating and if it is any closer to tipping the world into the unknown,” he said in Manila.

Hey, go get your own samples. We’ll be as cooperative and as forthcoming about bird flu as we were about AIDS in Henan province and SARS in Beijing.

The Discussion: 5 Comments

Bird Flu And Globalization

Not to distract from the seriousness of Keith Bradsher’s claim, that China is refusing to share information about the H5N1 virus collected from wild birds in its (very significant and contiguous) territory, but I’m impressed how many ways p…

October 17, 2005 @ 6:50 am | Comment

Hey, it was my understanding that those birds in China did have bird flu. They were just pining for the fjords.

October 17, 2005 @ 8:30 am | Comment

Ah, so THAT’s why Daffy keeps making those spitting and hacking noises.
ARGHP!…..(now being dragged away for revealing state secrests….)

October 17, 2005 @ 4:41 pm | Comment

How is it Chinese authorities can spot an FLG supporter from miles away and have them jailed/deported within hours, yet they can’t find any bird flu? I am also wondering why the media have let China off the hook so far on their response to bird flu. Apart from this piece in the IHT, there has been almost no attention to the source of bird flu – China. Reporters need to start putting some tough questions to people like Du Qinglin (杜青林), the Chinese minister for agriculture [who doesn’t want a bit of bird flu to ruin the poultry market], to Gao Qiang (高强), the Chinese minister for health and to Xia Yong (夏勇), the minister in charge of keeping all the information on bird flu a state secret. If the western media can’t do it, why can’t Apple Daily or even ESWN get on the case? [Of course, don’t expect anything in China Daily/People’s Daily, they’re too busy drumming up hatred of Japan and telling the Chinese how wonderful they are for their really useful space programme ]

October 17, 2005 @ 5:17 pm | Comment

Two aspects of China’s culpability through secrecy in today’s uardian (so it may or may not be correct):

The “director of the MRC’s National Institute of Medical Research, said it was important to know whether other people had caught the flu from birds. ‘We would like to know precisely how the Chinese are responding to such a widespread infection of their chickens, how they are looking at their birds, how they are looking at their human beings for having potentially been infected. That information is not available at the moment’.”

“The MRC’s chief executive, Colin Blakemore, said there were ‘understandable sensitivities in China’ (yeah- they’d rather risk a pandemic killing possbly as many as 50,000 -700,000 worst case scenario in the UK alone than lose face) and it would be false to suggest it was the source of all the problems.”

October 18, 2005 @ 3:45 am | Comment

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