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Quake area 'still free of epidemics'
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No major epidemic outbreaks or public health incidents have been reported in the quake area, a health ministry spokesman said on Friday.

However, because of the quake and weather factors, diarrhea and measles are relatively common among the reported sick cases in the region, Mao Qun'an told a press conference.

Most epidemic monitoring stations in the quake zone have been restored, making it easier to report and trace infectious or suspected cases, he said.

Since the quake struck on May 12, the health ministry has sent 10,630 medical and disease prevention workers to affected areas, and in cooperation with local staff, their work has covered all the villages and survivor settlements.

Due to the beefed-up measures, the incidence of infectious diseases in the region is actually lower than in previous years, he said.

However, disease prevention remains a tough challenge, he said, adding that local health departments must boost efforts to avoid epidemic outbreaks.

As of Friday noon, the death toll from the Sichuan quake was 69,197, according to figures from the State Council Information Office. A further 374,176 were injured and 18,222 are still missing.

Meanwhile, on Friday, a health official told a press conference that foreign media reports about an outbreak of epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis (ECM) in the Olympic co-host city of Qingdao were groundless.

Liang Dongming, deputy director of the emergency response office under the health ministry, said there have been no cases of ECM reported this month in the coastal city in eastern Shandong province.

An investigation carried out by the ministry of 657 public health monitoring stations found no ECM cases in July, he said.

"In fact, between January and June, Qingdao saw a decline in ECM case numbers compared with the same period last year," Liang said.

ECM, an acute infectious disease, has obvious seasonal variations and usually peaks between November and April, an anonymous official with the Qingdao health bureau said.

Its incidence usually begins to decline in May and falls to its lowest level between July and October, he said. "An outbreak in July is against the natural development rule of the disease," he said.

(China Daily July 19, 2008)

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