US health experts are alarmed and outraged that the Chinese government appears to be withholding samples of the deadly, rapidly evolving bird flu virus, H7N9, from US research labs, according to a report by The New York Times.
The samples are critical for studying the virus and developing life-saving treatments and vaccines in preparation for potential outbreaks or pandemics. Usually, countries share viral samples “in a timely manner” without any fanfare under an agreement established by the World Health Organization to address such potential flu threats. That usually means a matter of months.
But according to the Times, China has failed to share the samples for more than a year, despite persistent requests from government officials and researchers, including those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Moreover, scientists and experts worry that, as the US and China continue to butt heads on trade agreements, the issue of sharing biological samples and other medical-related materials could worsen.