China Withholding Deadly Flu Samples from U.S. Researchers

Americans have zero immunity against the deadly H7N9 flu, and China is refusing to share much-needed samples with U.S. Researchers hoping to combat a potential outbreak.

More than a year after a deadly H7N9 avian influenza outbreak spiked in China, infecting 766, U.S. researchers have yet to receive samples of the viral strain to help them develop vaccines and treatments to combat it, despite persistent requests from officials and research institutions, according to reporting from The New York Times.

A new strain of H7N9 first surfaced in China in 2013, infecting both humans and animals, though the National Institutes of Health has said the strain is not easily transmitted between humans—most human infections were in those who had contact with live poultry or visited markets where the birds were sold. Still, it is concerning, as there have been five significant outbreaks of the virus, which has a near 40% fatality rate, and, if it mutates, it has the potential to cause a pandemic, as most people—especially Americans—have little to no immunity against it, making research essential.

Under an agreement established by the World Health Organization, participating countries—which has, until this point, included China—must transfer influenza samples with pandemic potential to predetermined research centers around the world, in a “timely manner.”

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