Tuesday, June 21, 2005

History lesson from Recombinomics and more on China

Henry Niman at the Recombinomics site has a very useful summary of the development of the H5N1 problem, since its first appearance as a public health issue in 1996 to the present. He traces the development through the six phases of a pandemic, bringing us to our current position on the threshold of phase 6: "increased and sustained transmission in the general population." For those following this situation on a daily basis, it is extremely helpful to step back to look at the "Big Picture." If you haven't read his post yet, by all means do so.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports (via the Asian Wall Street Journal) that international teams from WHO and FAO (the UN Food and Agriculture Organization) have arrived in Qinghai, China, the remote western province that was the site of a large migratory bird flu die-off and unconfirmed reports of many human cases with flu-like symptoms (see here and Niman's post for links).

This is welcome news, although the degree of access wasn't specified, and more to the point, China is said to have denied a request for a visit by independent scientists to the neighboring Xinjiang autonomous region where China has reported another large die off of geese, and as in Qinghai, there have been unconfirmed reports of many admissions to special "fever units" set up in the hospital at Tacheng city. Since the international teams are already in the area, this refusal to permit a visit is hard to understand and will not help dispel suspicions that China is not making full disclosure of their bird flu problem.

It never ceases to amaze how stupid some bureaucrats and the governments they serve so badly can be.