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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Cover-up on date of first H5N1 infection in China in 2003

According to this latest New Scientist article,
A man died of H5N1 flu in Beijing in November 2003 - two full years
before China admitted any human cases of H5N1. The death of the 24-year-old from bird flu came months before China even admitted H5N1 was circulating in its poultry. The man was tested for respiratory illness because of concern in the wake of the SARS epidemic.

It is not clear when the Chinese scientists who reported the finding discovered this, but they tried to withdraw their paper from the New England Journal of Medicine at the last minute on Wednesday. It was too late to prevent publication.

The case suggests that, as has long been suspected, many more people have caught H5N1 flu in China than have been reported, and for a longer time. The more human cases there are, the more chances the virus has to evolve into a human pandemic strain of flu.

There have been other rumors of thousands of human cases in islolated areas of China. Unless we get good numbers on infections and deaths, we can't begin to really understand how widespread or dangerous this bird flu virus may be to people. I suspect that there has been thousands of unconfirmed, undocumented, or unreported cases--indicating that the virus may be slightly easier to contract than previously confirmed, as well as far less lethal than the current official numbers (228 cases, 130 deaths) indicate.

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