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Health Minister Talks About SARS in China
Chinese Minister of Health Zhang Wenkang held a press conference Thursday afternoon in Beijing, briefing journalists from home and abroad on the conditions of SARS in China and the efforts being taken to control and prevent the spread of the disease.

From the beginning of 2003 when atypical pneumonia was found to March 31, a total number of 1,190 cases were reported. Among them 1,153 were from Guangdong, 12 from Beijing, 11 from Guangxi, 7 from Hunan, 4 from Shanxi and 3 from Sichuan. Among all these cases 934 or 78 percent have recovered and been discharged from hospital: 911 from Guangdong, 1 from Beijing, 8 from Guangxi and all cases from Hunan(7), Shanxi(4) and Sichuan(3). There have been 46 fatalities in total: 40 from Guangdong, 3 from Beijing and 3 from Guangxi.

From March 1 to March 31, a total number of 361 cases were reported in Guangdong, a reduction of 47.5 percent compared with February. Reports in March have also declined consistently over time: 145 in the first ten days, 128 in the second ten days and 88 in the last 11 days. 507 cases were discharged from hospital, an increase of 133 over February and 9 died, a reduction of 18 over February.

The cases reported in Beijing are imported cases. They are patients who either reside outside but sought treatment in Beijing or developed symptoms in Beijing after getting infected outside. Cases in Guangxi, Sichuan and Hunan were found after an atypical pneumonia surveillance system was established and through retrospective review used a newly developed case definition. Thanks to timely control measures, no local transmission has taken place and no primary case has been found in these places.

According to the epidemiological and clinical analysis, this epidemic has the following characteristics:

1. The period of onset is winter and spring when people are more susceptible to respiratory diseases.

2. Clinical symptoms of the cases are sustained fever and dry cough. A few cases have breathing difficulties. The symptoms, signs and lab testing results of the cases are different from those of typical pneumonia.

3. It is mainly transmitted by air droplet with close distance.

4. Atypical pneumonia can be prevented and cured. The majority of the cases have recovered and been discharged from hospital.

The central committee of the CPC and the State Council are very concerned about it and have paid close attention to this epidemic. Instructions have been given many times to take effective measures to control the spread of the disease. A steering committee chaired by the Minister of Health has been established to guide the prevention and control of atypical pneumonia. An interministerial meeting system led by the Deputy Secretary General of the State Council has also been established to coordinate and solve the problem. The Ministry of Health (MOH) has also paid close attention to the outbreak in Guangdong. Three ministerial visits were paid to the province to guide the work. Three national expert teams were sent there to work with local experts. “Notice to Strengthen the Control of Respiratory Diseases in Spring” was issued by the MOH to all local health administrative departments. Thematic meetings were held to organize the work and active surveillance and prevention were conducted. CPC Guangdong Committee and Guangdong Provincial Government summoned all medical service capacities to save lives and ensures that each and every patient is treated timely and appropriately. A large amount of epidemiological study, clinical diagnosis, field investigation and sampling, laboratory testing, sterilization and isolation work have also been carried out and rich experience been accumulated. After painstaking efforts by the central and local health workers, the number of new cases has declined and recoveries have increased. The number of fatalities has been reduced and the epidemic has been put under control. People live and work normally. Society is stable and travel is safe.

After the outbreak of the epidemic, China has cooperated effectively with WHO. Three WHO expert teams were invited to China to discuss etiology, diagnosis and control measures with Chinese experts. WHO gives full recognition to the work done by the Chinese health authorities and experts.

(China.org.cn April 3, 2003)

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