Geneva — The mainland has been honest with the international community about its latest outbreaks of bird flu, a policy vital to global efforts to avert a threatened human pandemic, top UN health officials said.
Concerns have been raised over the transparency of disease outbreaks on the mainland, particularly after Sars in 2003, when secrecy allowed its spread to Hong Kong and other countries, killing 774 people worldwide.
Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, the World Health Organisation’s top flu pandemic official, said the global community was engaging China, and it had shown a willingness to be a major player.
“If you look at the kind of things they have done in the last few months, [these indicate] a very strong commitment that they are willing to join this international partnership. The risk of a pandemic is an international issue; China needs to be part of the equation,” said Dr. Chan.
She was referring to the 2 billion yuan the mainland had announced it was allocating to strengthen disease control systems, its request for technical assistance from the WHO for investigation of human flu cases, as well as its hosting of a donor agency conference in January to raise US$1 billion for a global action plan on flu.
Dr. Chan acknowledged there were problems with the mainland’s disease reporting during Sars.
“What you are saying is correct. We saw that in Sars,” said Dr. Chan, former director of health in Hong Kong who was among those criticised for the government’s chaotic handling of Sars.
Bernard Vallat, director-general of the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), said: “China is transparent. We were notified of avian flu outbreaks in animals [on the mainland].
“[It] is making every effort to inform the international community,” Dr. Vallat added.
The officials were speaking on Wednesday at the end of a three-day summit in Geneva on bird and human flu, co-hosted by the WHO, OIE, Food and Agriculture Organisation, and World Bank.
Summit delegates announced a 10-point action plan to stem the pandemic threat and said US$1 billion would be needed over the next three years to implement it.
The World Bank’s vice-president for operations policy and country services, James Adams, said there was cautious optimism the money would be raised.
From: South China Morning Post
Friday, November 11, 2005