While not bird flu related, the recent outbreak of HFMD (Hand Foot and Mouth Disease) in China gives us an opportunity to see how the Chinese government responds to an epidemic.
In 2003, China covered up the fact that they were seeing hundreds of cases of a new type of deadly pneumonia, what became known as SARS, for several months. They have in the past been less than forthcoming about their bird flu cases, and have been slow to send samples to the WHO.
Two days ago, the Associated Press reported on China's early response to this outbreak this way:
The disease began spreading in Anhui in early March. But a delay in reporting it to the public until last weekend triggered criticism in the media, which said local government officials should be sacked.
Health officials say there was no cover-up in Anhui and the reason for the delay was that medical teams were trying to work out what the illness was. An initial cover-up of the SARS epidemic in 2003 led to the sacking of Beijing's mayor and the health minister.
And the WHO reports it this way:
Testing for a variety of respiratory diseases of the initial cases did not reveal any conclusive results. Subsequently, additional testing and several expert consultations were conducted at the national level.
On April 23, EV-71 was confirmed. Health authorities informed WHO and Hong Kong SAR Department of Health and the Province of Taiwan's Department of Health immediately on these results.
For a detailed look at the EV71 virus, and HFMD, you can go here.
China virus death toll climbs to 28 amid warning of mass outbreak
Posted: 07 May 2008 1718 hrs
BEIJING : The number of children confirmed to have died from a highly contagious virus in China rose to 28 on Wednesday as authorities warned a "mass outbreak" across the country was looming.
Hand, foot and mouth disease claimed the lives of a two-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy on Tuesday, lifting the total number of fatalities to 28, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The children died in the central province of Hunan and the neighbouring Guanxi region, the first time fatalities had been reported in those areas.
Xinhua reported the number of people infected, the vast majority of them believed to be children, also rose by around 4,000 to 15,799, as authorities scrambled to distribute information to parents over how to prevent the disease.
"The country is gearing up for a nationwide war against a mass outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease with the number of cases this year continuing to surge," the state-run China Daily newspaper said.
Most of the deaths had begun as the intestinal ailment enterovirus 71, which can lead to hand, foot and mouth disease.