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Authorities Respond to Calls to Contain Meningitis

Departments across the country are responding to calls to prevent further spread of the type C meningitis outbreak.

An official from the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control said at a press conference yesterday that the capital's health departments have started to immunize the most vulnerable people, and a total of 300,000 vaccines are now available.

Priority will be given to migrant workers and their children since they are likely to travel home over Spring Festival to areas where there have been infections, said Sun Meiping, director of the center's Institute of Immunity and Prevention.

From yesterday afternoon, three-days of vaccinations targeting school-age children and migrant workers below the age of 40 began.

Some hospitals in the city and its suburbs will also offer immunization from today, according to Sun.

Hundreds of local people rushed their children to the center to get vaccinated after 16 deaths and 258 cases nationwide were reported in the media.

A World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Tuesday that the outbreak appeared to be routine and the fact that the number of cases was higher than normal could be due to improved surveillance.

WHO spokesperson Roy Wadia was quoted by Reuters as saying that there were no signs the authorities were concealing information about the outbreak.

Vaccine supplies will be adequate to meet demand, an official from the China National Biotec Corporation in Lanzhou, Gansu Province told Xinhua News Agency.

The company is the only manufacturer of type A and type C meningitis vaccines in China, producing 350,000 to 400,000 units daily.

Authorities in other regions were also working to contain the infection's transmission.

Shanghai kindergartens have begun to take a series of measures, such as strict morning physical exams, to prevent it from spreading among preschool children, officials from the Shanghai Education Commission announced yesterday.

Fifteen cases of the disease have been found in Jiangsu Province, according to the provincial center for disease prevention and control.

In Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, 11 cases have been reported, including two deaths, according to the Guangdong Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

(China Daily February 3, 2005)

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