Follow-up to Chinese New England Journal report

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 Wu-Chun Cao, asking that the paper be withdrawn.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 But Cao called the journal on Friday and denied he was requesting the paper be withdrawn and stating he and his co-authors stood behind the report.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.


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I'm beinning to smell the heavy-handed tactics of the Chinese government. Do they really believe that they can get away with this? What do they think we are? Idiots? Losing all credibility guys!


Do they really think they can get away with this? Yes.

What do they think we are? Idiots? Yes.

Losing all credibility guys! They don't care because there are no consequences for any action they take.

Our Watchdog is old, deaf and blind and recently lost its bark.

Those who are depending on the WHO to sound the "early" alarms preceeding a H5N1 pandemic must learn to eliminate WHO as a credible warning system. Not entirely WHO's fault; it's obvious that the countries most significant to the formation of a pandemic flu virus ie China, Indonesia, parts of Africa etc simply won't let them in to survey the wreckage. Someday, perhaps in the not so distant next flu season, someone from these forbidding places will debark a plane, enter a more developed country and the hell we all so greatly fear will be upon us. With luck, maybe we'll have all of 2 weeks to prepare.

Most of the authors on that letter were from a state lab. There's something weird going on here, but I don't think it looks like a coverup attempt. If the Chinese government wants a coverup, they'll succeed almost every time (unless it involves tanks in Tienanmen Square).

By traumatized (not verified) on 24 Jun 2006 #permalink

There was that family who returned from mainland China to Honkong, some died (H5N1). That was back in Feb. 2003. They went to Fujian Province, but travelled thru Guangdong, I have read. (?) The 8-year-old girl died in China itself.

Between Nov. 2002 and Feb. 2003 there was an outbreak of atypical pneumonia in Guangdong Province.

As many SARS patients were sent to hospitals in Beijing, even from quite far off, I wonder who that man was and where he came from.

The letter (NEJM) does not not say he was diagnosed with SARS at the time, simply that tests were negative. It also does not explain why they undertook the analysis. Mmm. (Several possibilites suggest themselves...)

The fake e-mails / faxes purportedly from the authors of the letter will not have been the work of the Gvmt (Imho!) - far too amateurish and ineffective, and not congruent with best strategy, which prescribes both: Obfuscate and Go with the Flow. Repressing the content of one letter, after it has been written and submitted for publication, is incongruent.

Nah, that was the work of someone (s) in the medical community itself. Cover-up of the cover-up kind of thing - rivalry about following Gvmt. policy or not - a knowlegeable wife, a frightened, angry colleague..