Local authorities 'could be underreporting' A/H1N1 cases

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, December 7, 2009
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Nearly 80 percent of respondents in a recent online poll think that local authorities throughout the nation are underreporting the A/H1N1 pandemic.

Of a total of 2,286 people who were polled in a survey jointly conducted by national English-language newspaper China Daily and major information portal Sohu.com, a strong majority think that there is a lack of correct information about the number of A/H1N1 flu cases.

Nearly 18 percent said this lack is mostly due to a limited medical capacity and the fact that hospitals are not testing everyone with flu symptoms for A/H1N1.

Feng Zijian, director of the emergency response department under the Chinese Center for Disease Prevention and Control, also said the number of unreported cases might actually be much higher than what has been reported.

"This also happens in some other countries as the cases can be too many to count," Feng said.

A/H1N1 flu cases and deaths have increased rapidly across China this winter. At least 200 people have died so far, according to official statistics.

Some 194 of the deaths were reported in November.

Doubt among those polled comes after Dr Zhong Nanshan, of Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, openly accused a number of local governments of intentionally underreporting the pandemic in mid-November.

After widespread media reports on the subject, Mao Qun'an, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, quickly denounced Zhong's statements.

However, some experts cautioned that the online poll, based on responses from more than 2,200 Internet users, may not be representative.

"These days, rumors abound about the pandemic, such as someone losing their hearing because of the disease or someone dying because of the vaccine," said Zhang Lin, a white-collar worker in Beijing. "I want to know more about these deaths to help me decide whether I should get an A/H1N1 flu shot or not."

Though Mao may have had doubts about Zhong's criticism, many in the latest survey chose to trust Dr Zhong, famous for exposing a coverup in the 2003 SARS epidemic.

Health experts have urged authorities to update the public on the A/H1N1 pandemic in a more timely fashion.

On Nov 20, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on its website that sporadic cases of an A/H1N1 mutation have been detected in countries such as Norway, Japan, the United States and China.

The mutation was first reported by several Chinese newspapers on Nov 24 after news outlets confirmed the cases with the WHO Beijing branch office.

The following day, the Ministry of Health held a press conference announcing that a genetic mutation had been detected in eight A/H1N1 flu cases on the Chinese mainland, with the first sign of the mutation coming in June.

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