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November 28, 2005

More China rumors

A respected Japanese scientist, who works with the World Health Organization, has told New Scientist he fears that China’s official tally of laboratory-confirmed human bird flu fatalities – just three – is only the tip of the iceberg.

Masato Tashiro, head of virology at Tokyo’s National Institute of Infectious Disease – a WHO-collaborating centre for bird flu – showed a slide at a meeting of virologists in Marburg, Germany, on 19 November listing “several dozen” outbreaks in people, 300 deaths, 3000 people placed in isolation, and seven human-to-human transmissions. The meeting was reported in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Tashiro has now told New Scientist that the figures were examples of the “unauthorised information” circulating in China, where he was recently helping investigate the outbreak in Hunan for the WHO.

Earlier reports suggested that Tashiro believed 300 to be the true death toll from bird flu in China. “I do not know whether the numbers were based on any evidence,” he says.

But the message is that “we do not know how many cases actually occurred in China”, due to poor disease surveillance. “If surveillance is done more extensively, more cases may be detected.” He says the international community should assist China with monitoring. He describes the situation as an "iceberg phenomenon" – with most cases unreported...

The potential problem of underreporting may not only be technical. There are also claims that Chinese medical personnel have been arrested for trying to report cases. China enforced severe restrictions on the investigation and reporting of suspected cases of bird flu in June 2005.

Here is the full storyEffect Measure offers useful commentary on the scientist's "retraction."

Posted by dymaxion at November 28, 2005 01:20 PM

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