Confusion Over Report Of
300 H5N1 Deaths In China

From Patricia Doyle, PhD
Hello Jeff - Here is the latest...a new ProMed post updating the earlier story about the Japanese WHO scientist.
At this point in time, I simply don't know what to believe. One article claims Dr. Tashiro stated an unnamed Chinese source reports there are 300 dead...with many human-to-human transmitted. Yet, another article states Dr. Tashiro did not talk to anyone in Germany about the numbers of Chinese bird flu deaths. It is all confusing at this point.
I think that Boxun (China news agency) may be moved to report by political restraints and the Chinese Govt. is moved to report lower numbers also by political motive. I have no idea if the previous article is accurate.
All we can do is post both sides. The truth is somewhere in between.
I wrote to Promed about the confusion in numbers and they sent me the following story. The original story is located below it.
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Thu 24 Nov 2005
From: "Masato Tashiro, NIID JPN"
Statement from Dr. Masato Tashiro
I am surprised to read the report in ProMED-mail, Avian influenza,human - East Asia (180): China, RFI [part 1] {archive number 20051123.3399).
First of all, it is not correct. Therefore, I would ask you to correct it.
In my presentation at the meeting in Marburg, I stated that WHO's official numbers of H5N1 human cases are only based on laboratory confirmed cases. It should be therefore an iceberg phenomenon. Due to poorly organized surveillance and information sharing systems in many affected countries including China, it is reasonable to consider that more cases have actually occurred actually.
We have heard many 'rumors' or unauthorized information which we cannot confirm. In this context, I talked about a few examples of non-authorized information and rumors about Asian countries which I received through private channels. I clarified that I do not know the original sources and I cannot confirm whether they are true, how these numbers were derived and what laboratory tests and epidemiological investigation were done.
Therefore, the article cited in ProMed-mail is incorrect and misleading. I did not receive any interview during my stay in Germany. I did not say anything that I believe the figures of the unauthorized information.
My message at the meeting was that international societies should help China to establish and perform nationwide surveillance and information sharing systems. I do not think that the Chinese Authority will conceal the facts from the world. Since the SARS event, they are collaborative to WHO. But they may have still limited capacity to monitor all human cases particularly in rural areas.
Masato Tashiro, NIID JPN
WHO Collaborating Center for Reference and Surveillance on Influenza,
National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Tokyo
(The article published in the Tue 22 Nov 2005 edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine, a reputable German newspaper, was referred to ProMED-mail independently by two reliable correspondents. ProMED-mail was not able to verify the accuracy of the newspaper report prior to posting and we regret propagating inaccurate information [but see [2] below]. The hysteria surrounding the outbreaks of HPAI H5N1 avian influenza in East Asia, and the associated threat of an imminent pandemic of human influenza, has generated a great deal of misinformation fueled by journalists competing to establish a presence in the field, particularly with regard to events in the People's Republic of China. We are grateful to Dr. Tashiro for clarifying his position. - Mod.CP)
Date: 24 Nov 2005
From: Arnon Shimshony
The Israeli daily "Haaretz" included the following information in a front-page article earlier today [24 Nov 2005] (translation from Hebrew):
"One of the participants in the meeting, Prof Hans-Dieter Klenk from Marburg University in Germany, confirmed -- in an interview with "Haaretz" yesterday [23 Nov 2005] -- the quote from Dr Masato Tashiro of the Japanese Ministry of Health. "Dr Masato presented a well-detailed table, in Chinese, which included more than 300 human fatalities, resulting from avian influenza, recorded in China during recent years", said Prof Klenk yesterday. "He (namely Tashiro - A.S.) said that he had received the unofficial report during his visit to China in recent weeks", said Klenk". End translated passage.
According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine, Dr Masato sharply criticised the Chinese authorities, saying they are "deliberately misleading the West"; this was denied by Prof Klenk. (As I understand it, the denial means that the said criticism was not said by Masato - A.S.).
Assaf Uni, the Haaretz reporter who interviewed Klenk, is a reputable one.
Arnon Shimshony
ProMED-mail Animal Disease and Zoonoses Moderator
Associate-Professor, Koret School of Veterinary Medicine
Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Now here is the original story - News Service
By Debora MacKenzie
A respected Japanese scientist, who works with the World Health Organization, says 300 people have died of H5N1 bird flu in China, including seven cases caused by human-to-human transmission.
He says he was given the information in confidence by Chinese colleagues who have been threatened with arrest if they disclosed the extent of the problem.
The allegations, which he revealed at a meeting in Germany, contrast sharply with China's official position. It reports three confirmed cases of H5N1 in people: a boy in Hunan province who recovered, and two women who died in Anhui province, the latest of which was announced on Thursday. There may be another probable case in Hunan.
But Masato Tashiro, head of virology at Tokyo's National Institute of Infectious Disease ­ a WHO-collaborating centre for bird flu ­ told the meeting of virologists in Marburg, Germany, on 19 November that "we have been systematically deceived". His comments were reported in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
He told the stunned meeting, called to mark the retirement of a senior German virologist, that there have been "several dozen" outbreaks in people, 300 confirmed deaths and 3000 people placed in isolation with suspected cases.
Severe Restrictions
Tashiro could not be reached for comment today. The newspaper reported that he said the numbers came from sources he trusted, while he was in Hunan province for the WHO, working with Chinese investigators on the recent H5N1 outbreak there.
He said five Chinese medical personnel had been arrested for trying to report these cases, according to the paper. China enforced severe restrictions on the investigation and reporting of suspected cases of bird flu in June 2005.
"These rumours have been investigated, and we've been told by the Chinese Ministry of Health that there's no foundation to them," Dick Thompson, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, told New Scientist.
Emergency Workers
Virologists consider the relative absence of human cases of bird flu in China unusual, given its widespread infection in birds. China has reported poultry outbreaks in twenty counties all across the country since mid-October, the latest being on Thursday.
The WHO told the official Chinese news agency Xinhua last week that the virus causing the outbreak in Hunan is the same as the one in Vietnam and Thailand, where H5N1 has caused 113 confirmed human cases and 55 deaths so far.
There are other unconfirmed reports of human cases in China. Boxun News, an independent Chinese website, reported this week that 77 workers brought in to help control rampant H5N1 outbreaks in poultry in Liaoning province in November have died of the virus, listing 14 names.
Boxun reported the extent of the outbreak in wild birds at Qinghai Lake in central China in May, and alleged then that 120 people had been put in stringent hospital isolation in a nearby town, possibly with bird flu.
Bird Flu ­ Learn more about the flu pandemic that could kill millions in our continually updated special report.
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
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Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
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