China’s past stirs fears of future – Evan Osnos

From the Chicago Tribune, via

Amid the blitz of reports on outbreaks across Asia and Europe, scientists agree one place stands out: China.

It is a special case not simply because China is home to more than one-fifth of the world’s population, but because it holds the grim distinction as an incubator where bird diseases can become lethal to human beings. The last two global pandemics, of 1957 and 1968, as well as the SARS virus and the current strain of avian flu, all emerged from southern China, where the dense mix of people, birds and pigs — often sharing the same back-yard farms — is an ideal environment for viruses to hop and mingle among the species.

But avian flu experts said they have additional reason to be wary of outbreaks here: a history of government secrecy and delay in handling medical crises.



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