The latest chapter in the Chinese Disease Cover-up Follies involves a just published report in the New England Journal of Medicine by eight Chinese doctors reporting the genetic sequences of an H5N1 case that occurred in November of 2003. Old news. Except China didn’t officially report its first case until two years later, November 2005. Just as the first issues of the journal were reaching NEJM’s subscribers, were notified that one or more of the authors wished to withdraw the paper. Too bad. Too late.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization is expressing shock at the reporting lapse and demanding further details.
A spokesperson for the WHO’s China office said officials will be seeking answers from the Chinese Ministry of Health about the discrepancy.
“I think it’s safe to say that we will be asking for more information on this in the wake of the publication of this letter by the eight scientists,” Roy Wadia said from Beijing.
“We would certainly want much more information as to exactly what happened, who this case was, what the possible source of infection was, where he was infected, the treatment — all the standard questions.
“There is information that needs to be shed on this by the Ministry of Health and we will be asking for that.” (Helen Branswell, Canadian Press)
All we need now is Claude Rains, as Captain Renault in Casablanca:
Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Captain Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.
Captain Renault: Everybody out at once!
Yes, we are all shocked China has not been completely transparent about the bird flu cases everyone in the world knew they had, but wouldn’t admit to:
Influenza experts outside China have long believed the country has hidden or missed human cases of H5N1. To date the country has reported 19 cases to the WHO; 12 of those people have died.
“They were just so noticeable by their absence,” influenza virologist Earl Brown of the University of Ottawa said of China’s contention through 2004 and most of 2005 that it had found no human cases of the often fatal disease.
The worrisome H5N1 virus was first isolated from a goose in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong in 1996 and is believed to have spread widely throughout the country’s vast expanses.
When country after country in Asia reported outbreaks in domestic poultry in late 2003 and early 2004, China maintained an official silence, insisting it was free of the virus.
“I think they were probably part of it (the outbreak) and they didn’t look hard or they didn’t tell us when they found stuff,” Brown said.
Flu watchers aren’t surprised that China had cases as early as 2003. In fact, outside China it has been widely assumed, given that three people from Hong Kong became infected with the virus during a visit to Fujian province in February 2003.
But those cases — only two were confirmed as one died without being tested — were shoved off the world’s radar screens within days. That’s because SARS exploded in the intensive care wards of hospitals across Asia and in Toronto.
“It’s clear that (H5N1) cases were occurring in China before they were reported and likely have occurred since — and were not reported,” infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Osterholm said when told of the letter. (Branswell, CP)
This blog’s IP has been banned in China so we won’t offend the Chinese authorities when we say, “What a bunch of dumb peckerheads.” [NB: A peckerhead is not a type of bird.]