Thursday, November 23, 2006

Chinese lack of transparency could trigger bird flu pandemic

A real concern was expressed last week when news of a new strain of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus reached virologists. This new strain has spread from southern China to South East Asia and re-ignited very real fears of an imminent pandemic.

According to the article, China’s Agricultural Ministry has come under sharp criticism from the World Health Organization for not sharing samples of the newly discovered strain of bird flu. China’s reluctance to share vital information and lack of cooperation has been an ongoing source of aggravation for health experts.

Scientists have been collecting bird faecal samples from poultry markets in the southern provinces from July 2005 to June 2006. They have found that the new strain from the Fujian province has become more predominant. Furthermore, 1 out of every 30 ducks and 1 out of every 30 geese in live markets tested positive for H5N1 but in that same period, Chinese authorities reported only three outbreaks in those same provinces.

Health experts feel it is important to know when a strain becomes more predominant than another in order to develop methods to detect and fight the disease. According to the article, it is believed some countries are reluctant to share genetic information or samples of viruses because they are afraid they will be pushed aside in the global race to produce a “lucrative vaccine”.


News-Medical.Net (2006). Chinese lack of transparency could trigger bird flu pandemic (Electronic version). Retrieved November 1, 2006

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