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Scandalous H5N1 Testing of Migratory Birds and Humans in Qinghai
June 28, 2005
>> Hall urged the Chinese government to carry out more testing for the deadly H5N1 flu virus, saying only 12 dead birds and two people have been tested, with the people coming up negative.
"What we want to see is more testing going on," she said at a news conference. <<
The fact that only two tests on people have been reported is remarkable. Over a month ago China held a news conference and indicated over 1000 birds had died and the H5N1 die-off was without precedent. They also indicated that there were no reported human cases. However, since only two people were tested, the lack of reported human cases is virtually meaningless.
At the time of the press conference last month, third party reports (Boxun via Abundant News) were available which indicated 6 tourists and 121 residents of 18 communities had died and another 79 residents were infected. Recent rumors indicate local papers are reporting additional deaths.
Today's WHO media conference indicates that almost two months after the initial bar headed goose was found and over a month after the OIE filing, China is reporting test on two patients and 12 dead birds.
These reports clearly show that surveillance efforts in China is inadequate. An unpcoming report on H5N1 isolated from duck meat imported fro China destined for Japan is further evidence of a lack of surveillance in China. The upcoming report is similar to an earlier report of H5N1 isolated from duck meat imported from China destined for South Korea. In both instances, the duck meat was imported for human consumption and many samples were positive for H5N1. The H5N1 in the upcoming article was isolated in 2003 and the virus is can grow in mice without adaptation and is neurotropic.
Moreover, since the Qinghai outbreak was filed with OIE, there have been two additional filings on outbreaks in adjacent Xinjaing province. In each case over half of the domestic ducks and geese were infected and half of the infected birds had died. Tacheng is located 5 miles from the Kazakhstan border and about 100 miles from birders with Mongolia and Russia. The geese in Tacheng began dying in May, strongly suggesting that H5N1 has already migrated to the three adjacent countries.
The lack of testing at Qinghai Lake leaves open the question of asymptomatic infections in the migratory birds which could transmit H5N1 throughout Asia. Qinghai Lake lies within the intersection of the eastern flyway as well as the Central-South Asian flyway. The two flyways cover virtually all of Asia. Limited tagging of bar headed geese has identified migration into the southern part of India where poultry workers have tested positive for H5N1 antibodies.
Clearly widespread screening of migratory birds and people is long overdue. China has never reported a human H5N1 infection and India has never reported H5N1 in humans or birds.
Surveillance of H5N1 bird flu in Asia remains scandalously poor.