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Outbreak of Encephalitis B Under Control in N. China
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The outbreak of encephalitis B that has claimed 19 lives in Yuncheng City of north China's Shanxi Province, is put under control, a local health official said Sunday.


Effective measures have been taken to curb the spread of the disease since the first case of encephalitis B was reported in the city on July 13, said Zhou Ying, director of Yuncheng City Health Bureau.


Local people were told how to protect themselves from contracting the disease while the hygiene environment was cleaned up and vaccination was enhanced in the affected and nearby areas, Zhou said.


All these efforts have paid off and the epidemic situation was put under control, Zhou said.


As of Sunday, Yuncheng reported 60 people infected with the disease, 19 died, six have recovered and are discharged from hospital, and 31 others were still hospitalized, of whom eight are in a critical condition. Four people were being treated at home.


Nine out of the 13 counties of the city, which has a population of 5 million, have reported cases of encephalitis B, said the Yuncheng City disease control center.


Daily report on the epidemic situation has been done by disease control centers of Yuncheng city and the affected cities and counties beginning Aug. 10.


Encephalitis B causes an inflammation of the brain that can be contracted by people of all ages. It is usually the result of a viral infection passed to humans by mosquitoes. The illness begins with flu-like symptoms and severe headaches.


Many people who have fallen ill come from the rural areas of Yuncheng and live on flood plains of the Yellow River, where there is poor sanitation and good breeding grounds for mosquitoes, said Zhou Ying, director of the Yuncheng Health Bureau.


Yuncheng reported about 30 cases of encephalitis B patients in 2005, according to Zhou. The number of encephalitis B patients in Yuncheng accounts for over 50 percent of the total of Shanxi Province every year, he added.


Patients are now being treated in hospitals of Yuncheng and Yongji cities and Linyi County.


The Shanxi Provincial Health Department has allocated 400,000 encephalitis B vaccines to Yuncheng, which had only 20,000 vaccines on hand, said Wang Jinsheng, deputy director of the center.


The vaccines will be allocated to different counties according to the severity of the epidemic, Wang said.


The vaccinations will be given away free but people will be charged three yuan (US$0.37) to administer the injection, Wang said.


The people in Yuncheng are being told in a media blitz to clean up their neighborhoods by sweeping away pools of standing water in which mosquitoes can breed.


Yuncheng's hot weather and frequent rains have provided ideal conditions for mosquitoes to breed. As temperatures drop next month so will the number of cases of encephalitis, said Feng Lizhong, an official with the Shanxi Provincial Health Department.


Six experts from the China Disease Prevention and Control Center (CDPCC), dispatched by China's Ministry of Health, arrived in Yuncheng on Friday. They have visited patients and collected samples of the virus for laboratory analysis.


The team of experts are working with the Shanxi Provincial Health Department on urgent measures to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.


Over 80 percent of the victims found in the city are people over the age of 30, said Liang Guodong, leader of the team of experts and director of the virus research institute of the CDPCC.


Chinese Ministry of Health on Thursday urged better prevention and control of encephalitis B after a dramatic rise in the number of new cases in July.


Last month, the ministry received 2,314 reports of new encephalitis B cases, up 43.73 percent over the same period of last year. It also recorded 78 deaths from the disease, down 6.02 percent year-on-year.


The ministry noted it was a high season for encephalitis B and called for local authorities to do more to prevent its spread.


China saw two widespread outbreaks of encephalitis B in the 1960s and the 1970s, prompting a nationwide vaccination campaign.


However, over the last couple of years China reported between 5,000 and 10,000 cases of encephalitis B cases a year. Some local areas have been ravaged by severe outbreaks.


On July 3, the ministry required local health officials to report within 24 hours any outbreak of encephalitis B.


In the latest epidemic report, the ministry recorded 798 deaths from infectious diseases in July, 175 more than the previous month.


(Xinhua News Agency August 13, 2006)

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