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China Stresses It Isn't Hiding Bird-Flu Cases
posted by admin on 01/05/06

There have been delays in the country's internal reporting of possible human cases of bird flu 

A senior Chinese health official reiterated on Friday that there have been delays in the country's internal reporting of possible human cases of bird flu, but he emphasized that China hasn't been hiding any instances of the disease. 

The comments from Mao Qunan, spokesman for China's Ministry of Health, came after an article in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday cited an unnamed person familiar with the matter as saying that local officials had failed in some instances to report possible cases of the disease to the central government. 

"Most local medical institutes where humans with bird flu are first treated were slow in reporting to health authorities, therefore we must first raise their awareness. That is a priority," Mr. Mao told the Xinhua News Agency, in an article published Friday. 

In the same interview, he stressed that china isn't covering up cases of the disease, saying that every human case of bird flu in China has been announced as soon as it is confirmed. Mr. Mao's comments were an unusual official response to a report by a foreign newspaper. 

In a telephone interview yesterday, Mr. Mao described the Journal article as fair but again stressed that no cases had been concealed, emphasizing that he had no reason to believe the death toll was higher than the official tally of 12. Since late last year, China has reported a total of 18 cases, 12 of which have been fatal. 

Earlier last week, the health ministry reiterated a strongly worded statement warning authorities that coverups could risk spreading the disease. The statement cited several lapses, pointing out that some medical institutes had "failed to quickly report on 'pneumonia cases with unknown causes' " or had avoided using the term by diagnosing cases simply as severe pneumonia. 

A person familiar with the matter said last week that the central government was "quite upset from receiving information late from local officials." In an interview last week, Mr. Mao said there was no sign that local authorities in the provinces had actively been suppressing information about confirmed human cases of bird flu. Instead, he said, the problem has been that some hospitals haven't been reporting cases of severe pneumonia in which the cause isn't known. 

"The hospitals in the rural areas are not timely," he said then, "because they don't realize the cases are very important and need to be reported to the ministry." 

Beijing has been quick to report confirmed cases of the disease to the World Health Organization, following criticism of its response to the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome three years ago, when the Chinese government initially tried to conceal the outbreak. 

Write to Nicholas Zamiska at

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