China has refused to share laboratory samples of the bird flu virus with the United States, a move that may be placing thousands of lives in danger.
Despite political tensions, medical professionals in the United States and China have had no trouble working together to tackle global health problems. However, things have apparently changed.
China Not Sharing Bird Flu Virus Samples
Countries usually share viral samples with each other, under an agreement that was established by the World Health Organization. It is important to study the samples to be able to understand the different viruses, and to develop treatments and vaccines against them to prevent outbreaks or pandemics.
"Jeopardizing US access to foreign pathogens and therapies to counter them undermines our nation's ability to protect against infections which can spread globally within days," said Harvard Medical School infectious disease specialist Michael Callahan.
The United States and China are both members of the World Health organization, and mutually benefit from sharing medical knowledge and samples with each other. With citizens from both countries regularly visiting the other one, the governments will likely want to keep the population of the other nation healthy too.
However, with the increased tension over trade between the United States and China, its effect on the medical community may be starting. Unfortunately, it will be the general public who will pay the price.
The Next Global Pandemic: Bird Flu?
Medical experts believe that the next major global pandemic will come from the flu virus, with the H7N9 virus one of the candidates.
The H7N9 virus first appeared in China in 2013, and has resulted in a series of sporadic epidemics in Asia. However, in the outbreaks so far, the virus did not spread quickly between people, limiting its reach.
The H7N9 virus is deadly though, with 39 percent of cases resulting in the death of the patient. Also, like many flu viruses, it is capable of rapidly mutating. Patients who fell ill to the virus usually report that they were recently exposed to birds or poultry, resulting in the name bird flu.
The bird flu virus is scary one, and countries around the world should be working together to prepare for it. However, with China refusing to cooperate with the United States, the H7N9 virus may indeed be the next global pandemic, and may claim thousands of lives.