BEIJING, April 29, 2009 (AFP) - A senior Chinese health official said Wednesday that foreign media reports pointing to China as the source of a deadly swine flu outbreak were aimed at tarnishing the nation's image.
"Driven by ulterior motives, some overseas media have ignored the facts of the epidemic and basic scientific knowledge and deliberately fabricated rumours that this epidemic came from China," health ministry spokesman Mao Qunan said.
"(They) aim to muddle right and wrong, create disturbances and ruin China's image," he said on the ministry's website.
A number of press reports have said that the swine flu strain that is believed to have killed more than 150 people in Mexico originated in Asia.
Some of the reports quote the governor of the Mexican state of Veracruz, Fidel Herrera, as telling reporters Monday that the virus began in China.
"We are resolutely opposed to this," Mao said.
He said China was ready to work with the international community to help curb the spread of the A/H1N1 swine flu which has quickly spread to other countries and sparked fears of a deadly global pandemic.
So far China has not reported any human cases of swine flu. A group of students in northern China with suspicious symptoms were found to have influenza B, which is common in humans.
"At present we have not detected any cases of human infection of this virus, nor have we discovered any similar infections in pigs," Mao said.
In recent years China has suffered outbreaks of other potentially fatal diseases including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and avian flu.
China was heavily criticised in 2003 for initially covering up the SARS epidemic, which originated in the south of the country.
Like swine flu, SARS is believed to have crossed over from animals to humans, eventually killing more than 800 people worldwide.
In 2007, Chinese agricultural officials were accused of partially covering up an outbreak of blue-ear pig disease, which killed over 80,000 pigs. More than 235,000 others were slaughtered during the outbreak.
The spread of that virus was blamed for contributing to a sharp spike in prices of pork, a staple of the Chinese diet.
The health ministry spokesman said China was willing to work with the global community to help stem the spread of swine flu.
"After the swine flu epidemic broke out in the United States, Mexico and other places, the Chinese government placed a lot of importance on this and immediately initiated the emergency prevention system," Mao said.
"In the process of fighting this epidemic, our nation will maintain close cooperation and make common efforts with the World Health Organization and the governments of nations hit by the outbreak."
According to the China News Service, China on Wednesday agreed to give Mexico five million dollars in aid to help fight the outbreak.