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Official: No escaping from plague-hit area
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Local officials coping with pneumonic plague control in northwest China's Qinghai Province Thursday denied recent foreign media reports about people escaping from the plauge-hit area on foot.

The officials told Xinhua that the reports about escape were groundless and there were no facts supporting them.

AFP Wednesday quoted a businessman who works in Ziketan township as saying,"Some of my hometown folks left, they are afraid of pneumonic plague."

On the same day, AP reported that two residents said a lot of people (from the town) "ran off last night.

After 12 patients in Ziketan township of Xinghai county in Qinghai's Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture were quarantined on July 31, the local government has sealed off 3,500 square km centered around Ziketan Township, with a population of 10,000, and established 23 quarantine stations working around the clock.

No other infections were found except for the 12, three of whom died and one was in critical condition as of Wednesday, according to Dong Fukui, deputy government chief of Hainan prefecture that administers Ziketan.

More than 140 epidemic-prevention professionals from the Ministry of Health and the provincial-level institutions are working in the area to control the deadly disease.

Dong Fukui told Xinhua Thursday that he was just back from the Ziketan grassland after having talked with more than 20 local herdsmen. He explained to them some knowledge about the pneumonic plague and local government's actions against it.

Efforts have been intensified to improve awareness of the plague among locals, according to Dong.

Authorities publish the status of the plague everyday, which helped contain the disease. More than 40,000 brochures and leaflets on pneumonic plague along with 400 CDs have been distributed in the area.

Dong said he was so pleased that many locals in the quarantined area voluntarily joined the disease-control efforts. Some of them patroled around the area by their own motorcycles. The prefecture government had decided to subsidize the local volunteers, Dong added.

Actions against the plague are effective and the disease is unlikely to spread from the epidemic center, according to specialists taking part in the plague control.

"Supplies in the area are guaranteed. It is not necessary for the locals to escape,"Dong said.

Staff at the Jiudaoban quarantine station told Xinhua that they did not see any residents flee from the epidemic center. Motor vehicles queued up at the station for quarantine and disinfection. They were in good order, though the process was slow. Dong said people involved did not complain and remained calm.

According to Qin Jianxin, deputy head of the public security bureau of Xinghai County who is in charge of the quarantine station which is nearest to Xinghai county, there are 18 people working with the station. Quarantine vehicles patrol the area round the clock. All of the vehicles are employed for the plague control.

"This is the last pass and the only way toward the epidemic center. We've seen no local residents come out of the center,"Qin noted.

Specialists taking part in the plague control estimate that the lockdown was expected to be lifted in the near future when conditions were ready.

They discovered the origin of the pneumonic plague was possibly the dog raised by the first victim, who was a 32-year-old herdsman. He owned a dog that died after contracting the plague from an ill wild marmot.

Wang Hu, head of the Qinghai provincial center for disease prevention and control, told Xinhua earlier that while the herdman was burying the body of the dog, he was beaten by the fleas on the dead animal, causing him to contract the plague.

(Xinhua News Agency August 6, 2009)

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