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Editorial, Opinion Pieces Address Emergence Of New Bird Flu Strain In China

The following is a summary of two opinion pieces and an editorial written in response to reports of a new strain of bird flu — H7N9 — emerging from China.

  • Peter Christian Hall, Reuters’ “The Great Debate”: “Memories of China’s repression of news during its tumultuous 2002-03 SARS outbreak could fuel panic and unrest at home and suspicion in the West,” Hall, a novelist, writes. “This might explain why FluTrackers, a U.S. website that hosts a global volunteer disease-surveillance network, has been suffering renewed denial-of-service attacks that it says are originating in China,” he continues. He asks, “Why would Chinese authorities care about FluTrackers?” and writes, “For one thing, the non-profit website is watching China” (4/2).
  • Adam Minter, Bloomberg’s “The Ticker”: “For residents of Nanjing, China, perhaps the only thing worse than learning that the new, apparently virulent strain of H7N9 bird flu had infected someone in their city was learning it via a document leaked to Sina Weibo, China’s most popular Twitter-like microblog, by a hospital administrator,” Minter, a Bloomberg correspondent and blog contributor writes, noting “Chinese officials covered up SARS for months” before a 2002-2003 epidemic. “[F]or a Chinese public and international community that’s grown accustomed to less-than-total transparency from Chinese public health authorities, it lacks credibility,” he continues, adding, “That credibility gap has only been widened over the last 48 hours as Chinese learned that public health authorities waited nearly three weeks before informing them of the Shanghai-area infections” (4/2).
  • South China Morning Post’s “Insight & Opinion”: “Ten years after SARS, [Hong Kong] faces two timely reminders of the need for vigilance and preparedness against the threat of another outbreak of deadly disease,” the newspaper states, adding, “Health officials have held an emergency meeting and the city is now on high alert for two potential threats — H7N9, and a deadly new SARS-like infection, novel coronavirus.” The editorial adds, “Mainland authorities say there is no evidence of human-to-human infection [with H7N9], but the virus seems to have mutated and the circumstances are worrying.” The newspaper continues, “Hong Kong stands at a crossroads of business and transport and is therefore vulnerable to contagion through an infected traveler. It can never afford to relax its world-standard surveillance system for infectious diseases” (4/4).