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Don't hide virus truth, local officials told

[ 2009-11-20 16:11]     字号 [] [] []  
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The Ministry of Health (MOH) yesterday vowed to punish officials who underreport the H1N1 flu pandemic following criticism from a prominent medical expert who cast doubt on China's official death toll from the disease.

Some medical experts have wondered aloud whether the country's H1N1 data matches the reality. They pointed to limitations in medical capacity and the fact that hospitals are not testing everyone with flu symptoms for H1N1 as reasons why the outbreak may have been underreported.

But Zhong Nanshan, a Guangzhou-based doctor famous for his candor in exposing a cover-up of the SARS epidemic in 2003, took concerns a step further, suggesting some local governments had deliberately concealed suspected cases.

"I just don't believe that there have been 53 H1N1 deaths nationwide," Zhong told the Southern Metropolis Daily. He said the number could be far higher.

The MOH reported that there had been 69,160 H1N1 cases on the mainland as of Monday.

In the article, Zhong said some parts of the country - he would not say which parts - were not testing severe pneumonia deaths to see if they were, in fact, H1N1 deaths.

MOH spokesman Deng Haihua responded by saying that anyone found concealing, underreporting or delaying the reporting of details about the pandemic would be punished.

Deng also invited the public and the media to oversee the transparent and timely reporting of the H1N1 situation.

Vivian Tan, press officer with the World Health Organization's (WHO) Beijing office, said WHO staff are not able to say whether claims of deliberate underreporting at the local level are accurate.

"We know the MOH has been urging local health authorities to report H1N1 cases in a transparent way and we do not suspect deliberate underreporting from the ministry," she noted.

She suggested that the country should focus its resources on monitoring bigger trends and unusual developments, as well as treating severe cases and continuing the vaccination of as many people as possible.

Meanwhile, nine special teams of MOH officials have been sent to 12 provinces - including Hebei, Shanxi, and Qinghai - to inspect local pandemic control work, particularly the treatment of severe cases.


1 What is Zhong Nanshan famous for?

2 What is Zhong Nanshan worried about?

3 What did the MOH decide to do in response to the accusations?


1. Exposing a cover-up of the SARS epidemic in 2003.

2. Some local governments had deliberately concealed suspected cases of H1N1.

3. Vowed to punish anyone found concealing, underreporting or delaying the reporting of details about the pandemic.


(英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Don't hide virus truth, local officials told

About the broadcaster:

Don't hide virus truth, local officials told

Guanny Liu is a freelance journalist from New Zealand. Born in North-Eastern China, she moved to Auckland with her family at the age of eight. Guanny has a Bachelor of Communications Studies from the Auckland University of Technology, majoring in journalism. Before coming to the China Daily website, Guanny was a journalist for the New Zealand state broadcaster, Radio New Zealand. She is in Beijing on an Asia New Zealand grant working as a copy editor for the English news department.