Helen Branswell, whose sources and reporting are the best, has a fascinating follow-up to the Chinese report in the New England Journal of Medicine the other day giving clinical details of a human case of bird flu in China that occurred a full two years before China officially reported any cases and a month prior to any reports in the current outbreak, thought to have started in Vietnam in late 2003.
Shortly before the paper was officially published in the Correspondence section of the journal but after it had gone out to subscribers by First Class mail, the editors received multiple emails and a faxed letter from one of the authors, Dr. Wu-Chun Cao, asking that the paper be withdrawn. Some of the emails seemed to be from all eight authors. But Cao called the journal on Friday and denied he was requesting the paper be withdrawn and stating he and his co-authors stood behind the report. At the journal’s request, the call was followed by a letter affirming this position.
The journal believes the call is legitimate but is continuing to look into the matter. Meanwhile suspicion falls on aparatchiks in the Chinese government who didn’t succeed in stifling the report but succeeded magnificently in looking stupid and heavy handed.