News update:Aug 15, 2006

China denies 2003 AI case cover up

China says it did not cover up a 2003 human death from bird flu which was only confirmed this week, but has admitted that there are shortcomings in the country's disease reporting.

Vice Health Minister Jiang Zuojun said it was initially believed that the man had SARS, as there was an outbreak of SARS at the time.

"This case had similar symptoms to SARS but clinical tests based on SARS standards determined it was not a SARS case," Vice Health Minister Jiang Zuojun said.

"So scientific researchers were trying to determine what type of disease it was. As it was a sudden and new infectious disease, they had not completely diagnosed it," Jiang told a news conference.

"It took time for scientific researchers to study the disease," Jiang said.

Jiang added that at the time, scientific institutions were not legally required to report infectious diseases and that only after 2004 was bird flu made a disease that legally must be reported.

"This problem exposes that our scientific research institutions in the future should strengthen communication and contacts with our disease prevention organisations," Jiang said.

Jiang declined to say whether it was possible that bird flu had been around in mainland China even earlier than 2003, and said that the ministry had no plans to carry out an investigation into possible cases before 2003.

"We should say the 2003 case is the first case. We have no evidence of cases before 2003," Jiang said.

Experts in Hong Kong have long suspected that bird flu had been present in mainland China for a long time, but had been dormant.

See the original news item on the suspected 2003 human bird flu case in China.

See the news update item about the confirmation of the 2003 human bird flu case in China.

Editor WorldPoultry

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