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MOH Calls for Improved Biosafety

Strengthening laboratory biosafety is an urgent task for the national health system and all medical care institutions must step up safety management, said Executive Vice Minister of Health Gao Qiang on Thursday. Gao was speaking at a nationwide teleconference of provincial-level leaders.


Just a week ago, Li Liming, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, resigned after mismanagement of the virus at the center’s National Institute of Virology was confirmed as the source of the country’s severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak earlier this year. Nine cases in Beijing and Anhui Province were confirmed in April and May, and one patient died.


Four of Li’s colleagues were also disciplined.


The outbreak was determined to be a major accident resulting from negligence.


“That sounds the alarm for the nation’s lab safety management,” Gao Qiang said. “The punishment of some cadres will raise awareness of official responsibility and establish a responsibility system for major accidents.”


Gao pointed out the importance of protecting the health of researchers, since study of disease prevention and control, particularly of virology, is a high-risk job. Such posts must be equipped with the necessary safety facilities and monitoring and reporting systems must be adhered to strictly, he said.


Gao suggesting designating special hospitals for treatment of researchers to guard against the wider spread of disease while providing good medical care.


Medical institutions should increase staff training to enhance their ability to identify infectious disease, and step up control of in-hospital infections.


Investigation into the outbreak showed that two researchers working at the National Institute of Virology in Beijing, where experiments using live and inactivated SARS coronavirus were conducted, developed the disease in late March and mid-April. The outbreak was reported on April 22 and the institute was closed a day later.


Soon after the outbreak was reported, a team consisting of members of China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences, and the Beijing and national disease prevention and control centers began to investigate. The World Health Organization also sent a team to assist.


(Xinhua News Agency July 9, 2004)

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