BEIJING-China has promised severe punishment for officials caught concealing deaths from H1N1 swine flu after a medical expert said suspect cases may have been held back by local governments.
The Health Ministry said China had adopted a new H1N1 accounting method earlier this month. If a person was confirmed with H1N1 and then died, the case should be reported as death from H1N1, whether or not there was another condition.
"People responsible will be punished if reports of H1N1 virus cases are held back, lied about or delayed," said Deng Haihua, spokesman for China's Health Ministry, according to a notice on the ministry's website (www.moh.gov.cn) seen on Friday.
Zhong Nanshan, respected by many in China for his candour and work fighting Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, said he did not believe the national H1N1 death toll of 53, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported on Thursday.
Zhong, who heads the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases in southern China, said that "some areas have not been testing deaths from severe (pneumonia) and treating them as cases of ordinary pneumonia without any question".
The World Health Organisation does not have a standard for which deaths to attribute to H1N1, although it does define how to diagnose cases, spokeswoman Vivian Tan said from Beijing.
"We don't think anything unusual is happening here, in terms of how the virus is spreading or how virulent it is," Tan said...