Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Earliest Human Case of Bird Flu Disclosed
Beijing scientists said in a medical journal Wednesday that a man in mainland China died of bird flu in November 2003—two years before the communist country reported any human infections to the World Health Organization.
At the last minute, however, the scientists asked without explanation to withdraw the journal report. But it was already in print.
The man’s death was initially thought to have been caused by SARS, the scientists wrote. That raises the possibility that other cases attributed to SARS may have actually been the deadly H5N1 bird flu.
“It’s hard to believe that this is the only person in all of China who developed H5N1” that year, said Dr. John Treanor, a flu expert at the University of Rochester.
WHO was surprised by the report, which came not from the Chinese government but from eight scientists in a research letter in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“We will formally request the Ministry of Health to clarify this,” and why it has taken more than two years to come to light, said Roy Wadia, a WHO spokesman in China.