China's response to H7N9 earns WHO praise

When the disease that came to be called SARS emerged a decade ago, the attempted coverup by Chinese officials exacerbated the situation. The denial-driven slow response helped the virus spread across the globe, racking up a death toll of 800.

Faced with an outbreak last month of H7N9, the response of the Chinese authorities was markedly different. While officials faced some criticism for a perceived delay in announcing H7N9, positive sentiments from global health officials have far outweighed the negative comments. The genetic sequence of H7N9 was shared quickly, and a detailed report was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. For a state that can be secretive, this is definite progress.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged the improvement. "We really thought the response was at a very high level, that the actions were taken in a quick manner, they were done in a very professional manner and they reflected to us that the city had been really well prepared. It had good systems in place, it was well-prepared and acted very effectively," WHO Assistant Director-General Dr. Keiji Fukuda said. Fukuda was "quite impressed," CRI English reports. In trying to stop the spread of H7N9, China has hurt its economy. Closures of live poultry markets have contributed to the sector losing $2.7 billion, Forbes reported after reading local media.

Some other countries have not been as open. As The Economist notes in a piece questioning whether the world is prepared for a true pandemic, Saudi Arabia has been criticized for its response to cases of a coronavirus. The virus--which is from the same family as SARS--has killed 11 people since September. Saudi Arabia has hosted some foreign investigators, but it has also been criticized for a lack of transparency. Without detailed information about the virus, it is difficult for national health authorities to work with the likes of Sanofi ($SNY), Merck ($MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) to prepare defenses.

- here's the CRI article
- see the Forbes figures
- check out the Economist feature