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Infectious Disease Outbreaks Reported
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Sixty-nine high school students in southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region have contracted acute hepatitis A over the past 20 days or so, and by press time 56 students still remained in hospital. In north China's Shanxi Province an outbreak of encephalitis B has claimed 19 lives, local officials said yesterday.

Yu Yang, deputy director of Pingnan County's health bureau in Guangxi, said Siwang Township reported 77 acute hepatitis A cases between July 21 and August 9. Of them 69 are students from the Siwang Township No.2 High School. As of Sunday 13 of the 77 patients had recovered and been discharged from hospital. Yu didn't disclose if there were any new cases.

Pingnan's health authorities conducted health checks on all teachers and students of the school and their families in a bid to stop the spread of the disease.

The school has 1,800 teachers and students. Of them 1,557 have undergone tests that proved 188 to be anti-HAV-IGM positive. Currently 93 people have been quarantined in the school.

Medical practitioners of Pingnan County are using injections to curb the spread of the disease and ease the symptoms of sufferers. The cause of the outbreak is unknown, said Zhang Jianquan, head of the health bureau. Zhang said bad drinking water could be responsible.

The local epidemic prevention station's tests show the water quality in five wells that provide drinking water for the school are far from meeting the safety standards set by the government. Currently, 380 students of the school, who are now spending the summer vacation with their parents in Guangdong and Fujian provinces, have not yet had their health checks, said Li Desheng, the school headmaster. As yet whether any of this group had contracted hepatitis A was unknown, Li said.

In Shanxi's Yuncheng City hit by an outbreak of encephalitis B, more than 740,000 vaccines are required to inoculate everyone under the age of 20, local officials said yesterday.

Local health authorities hope that vaccinating everyone in that age group will curb the spread of the disease. Shanxi Provincial Health Department has contacted vaccine manufacturers who are being requested to provide the serum urgently. The disease can be fatal to young people especially and leave them with disabilities.

More than 20 percent of Yuncheng's population of 4.95 million is under the age of 20. The provincial health department has already provided 400,000 vaccines to the city, which had just 20,000 in store.

As of Sunday, Yuncheng reported 60 people had been infected with the disease, 19 had died and 31 remained in hospital with eight of them being in a critical condition. Six others recovered and were discharged. Last year the area reported 30 cases of encephalitis B, which is transmitted by mosquitoes.

The city government has decided to provide free medical treatment for the eight patients in critical condition and for four people who had abandoned medical treatment because they could not afford it. The costs of medical treatment will be covered for everyone who cannot pay for it, said the city government. They'll also provide free vaccines for people under 20 who live in remote mountainous areas and whose families are poor.

The outbreak of encephalitis B exposed a shortage of vaccine reserves at grass-roots medical centers in Yuncheng City and especially in rural areas, said Liang Guodong, deputy head of the virus research institute under the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A lack of instruments and equipment made it difficult for medical workers to accurately diagnose the patients in good time, Liang said.

A grass-roots epidemic disease prevention and control system urgently needs to be established to ensure quick responses to public health emergencies in the future, said experts with the Ministry of Health, who are working with local health experts to curb the spread of the disease.

(Xinhua News Agency August 14, 2006)

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