Friday, April 12, 2013

China bird flu live Twitter updates in contrast to outbreak 10 years ago

Shanghai: After a new and lethal strain of bird flu emerged in Shanghai two weeks ago, the government of China’s bustling financial capital responded with live updates on a Twitter-like microblog. It’s a starkly different approach than a decade ago, when Chinese officials silenced reporting as a deadly pneumonia later known as SARS killed dozens in the south.
The contrast shows a new, though still evolving, openness in China that was learned from the SARS debacle, which devastated the government’s credibility at home and abroad. It also reflects the demands of a more prosperous and educated citizenry for information and its use of social media to get it.
“Publicize information to prevent ‘bird flu panic’,” read a headline of a recent front-page commentary in the People’s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s newspaper, that urged government departments to release information quickly about an outbreak that has killed nine and sickened 24 others.
Though some microbloggers and media are questioning why it took a couple of weeks after the first deaths for authorities to announce the new strain of bird flu, international health experts have broadly praised China’s response. The government has said that it takes time for scientists to identify the virus and that such a finding had to be put through several layers of verification before being announced.


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