China has been withholding bird flu samples for a year. Here’s why thousands could die …
FORTUNE – The Chinese government has withheld samples of a virulent strain of avian flu from American researchers for over a year, the New York Times reports.
And this strain of flu prevalent in birds, called H7N9, is particularly fatal, killing 40% of people who contract it.
However, so far, it hasn’t spread readily from fowl to humans, affecting largely only people who work with live poultry, and even then just a small percentage relative to the number of infected birds.
Human-to-human spread if this bird flu has also been extremely small, but Americans have essentially no immunity to the strain and seasonal vaccines would have no effect.
Researchers need access to samples taken from rapid, deadly, and unique outbreaks to study mutations to better understand the strain, and to formulate or be prepared to formulate vaccines against it.
Researchers want to study H7N9 as closely as possible due to the risk of mutation. Individual strains of influenza quickly mutate to become more deadly and transmissible, and new strains emerge unpredictably.
Retaliation for Trump’s trade policies?
The alleged refusal of China to provide samples for over a year has baffled and infuriated experts.
The transfer of samples typically takes months and relies on World Health Organization (WHO) rules. The holdup may be tied to the trade war started by the Trump administration, which has imposed waves of tariffs against China.
[To say that “the trade war (was) started by the Trump administration” overlooks decades of currency manipulation and other unfair trade practices by China against its #1 trade partner, the US. – Editor]
A mutated H7N9 that leapt to humans easily and spread rapidly among people could lead to a global pandemic.
Previous flu pandemics have killed hundreds of thousands to tens of millions of people. During the 1918-1919 “Spanish influenza” pandemic, around 50 million people died globally.
While judged the worst in recorded history, there’s no consensus of how to blunt a similar new strain today. The more recent H1N1 pandemic in 2009 killed between 151,700 and 575,400 people worldwide … Read more at Fortune. Image: Screenshot, Business Insider