Saturday, November 11, 2006
Bird flu samples on way to United States
The latest shipment of bird flu virus samples from China is expected to reach the United States next week, senior health officials said in Beijing on Friday.
“Following the five bird flu strains delivered in 2004, the Ministry of Agriculture has provided 20 more virus samples to the World Health Organization,” China’s Chief Veterinary Officer Jia Youling told a press conference organized by the State Council Information Office.
The samples will be sent to a WHO collaborating laboratory with the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), he said.
“We are happy about the development,” Henk Bekedam, the WHO’s China representative, told China Daily.
“I don’t know what kind of clearance they’ll have to go through on the other side, how long it will take, but we expect the CDC can confirm they have received them some time next week.”
China told the WHO Beijing office on March 1 that it was ready to provide the 20 samples requested by the UN organization in early February, according to Jia.
But it took time to arrange the logistics and go through customs procedures for both the Chinese side, the WHO and the recipient of the shipment of highly pathogenic virus samples, Jia said.
China has been co-operative in sharing bird flu information and samples, despite four of five samples submitted in 2004 being misused by some foreign researchers, he added.
The WHO made the samples available to foreign researchers, who twice published the genetic sequence and other data of four of the five samples without giving credit to the Chinese scientists who did the research.
Bekedam said he had apologized on behalf of the WHO collaborating centre and he hoped there would not be a repeat of the situation.
He stressed that sharing information and sharing samples is key in the fight against communicable and new diseases.
At Friday’s press conference, Jia and his colleagues categorically rejected claims by US and Hong Kong researchers that a new, vaccine-resistant H5N1 virus variant, called Fujian-like, was isolated in southern China, which caused five recent human infections in the region.