Propaganda bureau stifles reports of flu outbreak

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 12:00am

The Guangdong party committee's news and publishing bureau has put a lid on further reporting on the mystery flu outbreak as more people fall ill, sources said.

A reporter in Shenzhen said mainland newspapers would not be carrying any more reports on the illness unless there were 'very important developments'.

Guangdong health department spokesman Feng Shaoming said he was unable to provide any updates on patients as all information about the illness would now be disseminated by the party propaganda unit.

There is speculation of a fall-out between party cadres and government officials on how to deal with the outbreak. Until last week, provincial and municipal health officials were still providing updates on the flu situation.

Mr Feng denied a report on Phoenix television's Web site claiming that about 50 medical workers at an unnamed hospital for communicable diseases had fallen ill. 'There is no such thing,' he said. 'There are new cases every day, including among medical workers, but the numbers do not run into dozens.'

State television reported last week that there were six new cases since the Guangdong health department announced on February 10 that five people had died and 300 others, including 105 medical workers, were infected by a mystery strain of pneumonia.

Beijing experts said they found chlamydia bacteria in specimens taken from the lungs of two deceased patients, but Guangdong experts said it was too early to conclude that the illness was chlamydia pneumonia.

Officials have denied the illness was the H5N1 bird flu.

Meanwhile, state media reported that Party Secretary Zhang Dejiang and Governor Huang Huahua had instructed the provincial party committee's secretary-general, Cai Tongshi, Vice-Governor Lei Yulan and health department chief Huang Qingtao to visit patients on their behalf.