This flu season has been particularly severe, considered one of the worst in a decade in the United States, and sickening many in different parts of the globe, from Hong Kong to Australia.
In China, deaths caused by the flu may be underreported, which has kept the public unaware and unprepared for the brutal virus, according to a recent report by Chinese media Caixin.
The viral article, published on Feb. 20, also highlighted inadequacies in the Chinese medical system. It begins with a personal story of a Caixin reporter whose father-in-law died just 27 days after showing symptoms on Dec. 28, 2017. The reporter had previously written an account of the difficulties he faced in getting adequate and timely care for his father-in-law, which he posted onto WeChat, a popular social media platform. It quickly drew many netizen reactions.
The father-in-law was usually in good health. After showing signs of illness, the reporter brought him to see the doctor. It took five days for the doctor to prescribe flu medication and nine days for the doctor to make a definite diagnosis of the flu.
In the meantime, the father-in-law’s condition drastically worsened. The reporter had to transfer him to another hospital for treatment, but due to a shortage of beds, he had to frantically search for other available facilities. By the end of the ordeal, the father-in-law had to transfer hospitals five times, requiring a blood transfusion, treatment in the ICU, and getting hooked to an artificial lung machine (which helps deliver oxygen to the blood when the patient’s body cannot sufficiently do so). It cost the family more than 300,000 yuan (about $47,000).
A doctor who was consulted in the article said that if the flu was diagnosed and treated early, it may have been possible to use antiviral medicine to treat the father-in-law before symptoms got worse.
The Caixin article cast doubt on China’s official death statistics. Between Jan. 1 to Jan. 9, there were 10 reported deaths from the flu in Hong Kong—a city under China’s control but operating under a different political system, according to China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Though it acknowledged that there were more flu cases in mainland China than the same period in past years, the Center said there were no reported deaths between Jan. 1 and Jan. 7.
Hong Kong is a city of roughly 7 million, compared to China’s more than 1.3 billion. For the entire month of January 2018, the Chinese regime counted 273,949 flu cases and 56 deaths.
Caixin also compared cases of the H3N2 flu outbreak last summer in Hong Kong, compared to nearby Guangdong Province (over 100 million population). There were 15,000 H3N2 cases and 300 related deaths in Hong Kong, compared to 74,000 H3N2 cases and 3 deaths in the latter.
“In mainland China, the health departments usually only put the cause of death as cardiovascular-related illness, and will not report it as a death as a result of the flu,” according to Caixin. This has led to a lack of awareness of the severity of the flu outbreak, it concluded.
The Chinese regime also failed to promptly alert the public to the first case of death from the H7N4 bird flu, a 68-year-old woman in Liyang City, Jiangsu Province. A notice was sent out by the National Health and Family Planning Commission on Feb. 14 to Hong Kong authorities, which was posted onto the government’s official website.
But the Commission’s own website in China contained no news about this death. State media also did not report on the case.
Beijing-based China current affairs commentator Hua Po said that the Chinese regime has a history of covering up illness outbreaks. In 2003, news of the SARS outbreak was suppressed and withheld by the Chinese regime, leading to the spread of the respiratory illness.
“Many innocent, unknowing people died as a result,” Hua said. “ The Chinese Communist Party’s bureaucracy results in news and information about illnesses not getting out in time.”
Luo Ya contributed to this report.