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News Blackout on Human Bird Flu Deaths in Qinghai China?

Recombinomics Commentary
May 26, 2005

>> Qinghai Province health department concerned person in charge Ai Keyuan indicated that, the Qinghai Province health department also requests the above local all levels of medical and health organization to strengthen to the flu, has a fever case of illness and the unclear reason pneumonia case of illness registration, sieves Zha He to diagnose, once discovered 疑似 case of illness, must report, carry on the isolation and the treatment, simultaneously completes diagnoses personnel's protection work.

    But the official strict blockade related news, forbids the patient family member foreign speech. Free Asian broadcasting station reporter when interview also discovered that, passes on of area a spring lucky township for epidemic disease areas telephone, the situation is not been normal.  <<

The report above would seem to indicate a news blackout of some sort was in place for Qinghai province.  The sequence of events is cause for significant concern.  Initial reports of dead geese at the Qinghai Lake Nature Reserve indicated that 178 bar headed geese had died, but not of bird flu.  Recent media reports indicated that the dead geese were H5N1 positive and the OIE report of May 21 indicated there were 519 dead waterfowl involving five species, including the bar-headed geese.

Official comments from China indicated the 519 deaths were isolated and there were no deaths in farm birds or people.  Promed then carried a report indicating 6 people had died and the Chinese language report indicated they were tourists and the names and point of origin of 4 fatalities were given.

This May 22 report was followed by a May 24 report indicating the number dead was 121 and a news blackout was being imposed.  The number of dead (121 in total) and infected (79 in total) at 18 different locations was listed and a news embargo was again mentioned.

The report above also mentions a news embargo.

However, WHO contacted China by phone and letter and was assured that there were no human cases.

It is unclear why there is a news embargo if there are no additional cases beyond the 519 reported to OIE

Clearly the news embargo on a potential worldwide pandemic is inappropriate.  The reservoir is within the intersection of the East Asia and Central South Asia flyways which cover virtually all of Asia.  Some of the geese winter in India and stop at the reservoir in route to nest spots in Russia.

Surveillance of waterfowl in India and Russia is an urgent priority as is firsthand knowledge of the reported 121 H5N1 fatalities, including reports of cremation of victims.

WHO phone calls and letters are far from satisfactory.

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