The Executive Vice Minister of Health has given reassurances to the public that the level of meningitis cases in China is currently experiencing a normal fluctuation, and that there is no need for any panic.
Gao Qiang said in Beijing on Saturday that the disease would not affect the ordinary activities of people during Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year. "It is no more severe than it has been in previous years at the moment," he said.
Of the total 258 cases reported in 28 provinces, regions and municipalities in January, 49 were in Anhui Province, 30 in Henan Province, 19 in Hebei Province and 16 in each of the provinces of Jiangsu and Sichuan.
The other 128 were scattered over 23 provinces, regions and municipalities, with each reporting less than 10 cases, according to the Ministry of Health.
As would be expected, the number of nationwide cases has fluctuated over the past few years: 2,250 in 2001, 2,551 in 2002, 2,535 in 2003 and 2,698 in 2004.
"Although the total number of cases reported in January this year was higher than that of the same period last year, it was lower than the corresponding periods of 2003 and 2002," said Gao.
He also noted that China in recent years has maintained an average annual infection rate of about 2 in 1 million people, lower than that of the US and some European countries.
(Xinhua News Agency February 6, 2005)