This Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigator measures the amount of H7N9 virus that has been bred and harvested in the CDC laboratory in 2013.
Credit: CDC / Douglas E. Jordan
To protect people against the next flu pandemic, scientists need to know which influenza strains are circulating and how they are changing. But such efforts can be hampered if countries do not share flu pills; and now the Chinese government seems to keep samples of the dangerous avian influenza virus H7N9 from the United States, according to news reports.
For more than a year, China has not provided samples of H7N9 to the United States, despite persistent requests from officials and research institutions, according to the New York Times.
Experts say that samples of H7N9 are needed to develop vaccines against the virus, and treatments for them.
"Jeopardizing US access to foreign pathogens and therapies to combat them undermines our nation's ability to protect against infections that can spread globally within days," said Dr. Michael Callahan, a specialist in infectious diseases at Harvard Medical School, at the New York Times.
A new strain of H7N9 first appeared in China in 2013, and it has caused infections in both humans and animals. This virus is worrying because most people who get infections with it become seriously ill, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Indeed, the virus has a death rate of 40 percent, the New York Times reported. But until now, the virus does not seem to spread easily between people – most human infections were in people who were in contact with live poultry or markets where the birds were sold.
In 2016-2017, China experienced a peak in human cases of H7N9, with 766 cases reported. In the light of this recent outbreak, American scientists want to study the evolution of the virus; but this means that they need access to flu samples from China.
"Since this flu virus poses a potential threat to humanity, it is not outrageous to share it immediately with the worldwide network of WHO laboratories, such as CDC," said Andrew C. Weber, former assistant secretary for nuclear, chemical defense and biological defense. programs & # 39; s under the Obama administration. "Many can die unnecessarily if China denies international access to samples."
Although Chinese officials initially provided timely information on H7N9 when the virus first appeared in 2013, communication on the subject has progressively deteriorated, with the country also refusing to share data from human patients infected with the virus, New York reported. Times.
Original article on Live Science.