May 14, 2013

Thank you for the excellent May 9 editorial “Global flu,” about the importance of transparency and collective action during influenza outbreaks. It is true that China has responded better to H7N9 than it did to the SARS outbreak in 2003. One reason is that the international rules for disease outbreaks are stronger now than they were then. Since the revised International Health Regulations took effect in 2007, countries have been obligated to tell and to share. China met its obligation.

Others have, too. In September, Saudi Arabia told about the novel coronavirus that has killed about three-fifths of the 33 people it is known to have infected. And Cambodia did likewise in July about an outbreak of what turned out to be hand, foot and mouth disease.

China’s capacity to respond also is better now. This is due in part to its participation in the Asia Pacific Strategy for Emerging Diseases, which was created in 2005 and updated in 2010, also under the auspices of the World Health Organization. The international mechanism for global health security may fly under most people’s radar. But it is there, and it is working.

Timothy A. O’Leary, Manila

The writer is public information officer for the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for the Western Pacific.