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Special> Tracking H7N9 Bird Flu> In-Depth
UPDATED: April 15, 2013 NO. 16 APRIL 18, 2013
New Flu Cooped Up
Chinese Government is mobilizing resources nationwide and seeking international cooperation to prevent a new strain of flu from becoming epidemic
By Li Li

More transparency

Liang said that China is more prepared in handling public health emergencies than a decade ago when it fought severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) as the country's disease control network and related legislation have greatly improved. During the early stage of the SARS outbreak in 2003, which left more than 5,000 people in China infected, disease control efforts were greatly dampened by the lack of timely quarantine measures and cover-ups of some medical institutions and local governments.

Liang said that governments at all levels have been urged to be more transparent in releasing information on H7N9 bird flu cases.

He added that China reported the first case of H7N9 to the WHO soon after the case was confirmed and the country will accept site inspections, communicate with foreign experts, and provide strains of H7N9 avian influenza to the WHO in accordance with International Health Regulations.

At the same press conference, O'Leary said that the WHO had been in cooperation and communication with Chinese officials over the last two weeks.

"We are very satisfied and pleased with the level of information shared and we believe we have been kept fully updated on the situation," O'Leary said.

Information about H7N9 was made public by the NHFPC the day after the first infection was confirmed.

Since then, the commission has continued to update information on new infections on its official website, detailing the patients' age, location and treatment. It has also given the public tips on prevention.

"China has learned a lesson from the past in dealing with public health emergencies," said Professor Wang Yukai at the Chinese Academy of Governance.

"The government's response to the disease is completely different from 10 years ago, when information disclosure systems had not yet been established," Wang said.

Over the past decade, the Chinese Government has formulated a series of plans for handling infectious diseases and food safety incidents. A regulation for dealing with public health emergencies came out in May 2003, when the country was at a critical stage in combating SARS. China's Emergency Response Law went into force in November 2007. A regulation concerning government information disclosure took effect in May 2008, requiring the government to be more transparent in releasing information.

"The Chinese [National Health and Family Planning Commission] is working extremely openly and closely with us on this issue," said WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl at a news briefing in Geneva on April 9. "We are getting all the information that we need or ask for."

Email us at: lili@bjreview.com

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