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Monday, November 28, 2005 

China--being as forthcoming as they claim?

Saw this while I was away, but wanted to find out more details. Reports had surfaced that China was covering up H5N1 cases. The initial ProMed email report:

Dr. Masato Tashiro, a Japanese WHO consultant, believes that China has had 300 human deaths from avian influenza and is hiding the true extent of the disease from the rest of the world. Dr. Masato Tashiro, Director of the WHO Collaborating Center on Influenza at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Tokyo, and head of the Department of Virology of the National Institute of Infectious Disease (Japan), astonished colleagues with this information during a speech at a recent retirement dinner for a fellow virologist, Hans-Dieter Klenk.

Having just returned from the Hunan province of China on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO), [Dr. Masato Tashiro] claimed that a reliable source had provided him with details of the true nature of the H5N1 virus in China. "We are systematically deceived," he is reported to have said.

Tashiro visited China on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Hunan province. His laboratory, at the National Institute for Infection Research in Tokyo, as one of the Asian points of contact for the United Nations, had been particularly entrusted with investigations into avian influenza in Asia and China. Dr. Masato gave his lecture in the University of Marburg Clinic before some the most outstanding virologists in the world and shocked the meeting with his unauthorized data [report] from inside China.

The Japanese virologist [said he] firmly believes in the reliability of the source and its data. The secrecy of the Peking government is still causing concern as it was at the beginning of the SARS epidemic disease, complained Tashiro. At least 5 medical co-workers who should be reporting on the situation in the provinces were arrested, and [other] publication-willing researchers were threatened with punishments [he said].
A kind-of denial was then issued (see here), but the situtation still lacks clarity. Given China's population, agriculture practices, and past history of being, err, less than forthcoming when it comes to releasing information about disease to international authorities, this doesn't bode well, even if Dr. Toshiro's comments were played up or misunderstood.


About me

  • I'm Tara C. Smith
  • From Iowa, United States
  • I'm a mom and a scientist, your basic stressed-out, wanna-have-it-all-and-do-it-all Gen Xer. Recently transplanted from Ohio to Iowa, I've spent most of my life in the midwest (with 4 years of college spent out east in "soda" territory). My main interest, and the subject of my research, is infectious disease: how does the microbe cause illness? What makes one strain nasty, and another "avirulent?" Are the latter really not causing any disease, or could some of those be possible for the development of chronic disease years down the road? Additionally, I've spent a lot of time discussing the value of teaching evolution, and educating others about "intelligent design" and other forms of creationism. My interest in history of science and medicine is also useful as a way to tie all of the above interests together. [Disclaimer: the views here are solely my own, and do not represent my employer, my spouse, that guy who's always sitting by the fountain when I come into work, or anyone else with whom I may be remotely affiliated.]
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