Chinese health authorities are still working on a draft of an emergency plan to deal with possible outbreaks of influenza.
Yang Weizhong, director of the Office of Disease Control and Emergency Response under the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said late last week that the Ministry of Health would adopt a color-coded system to show the seriousness of the outbreak.
Given the comparatively weak endemic control system particularly in the country's vast rural areas, an emergency plan is viewed as necessary to curb each type of endemic, including influenza.
Since last November, the ministry had begun to organize a group of experts to draft the plan to deal with influenza, according to media reports.
"Four colors will be used to describe the threat posed by the endemic," Yang said at a flu prevention and treatment forum last week in Beijing.
Blue means that a new subtype flu virus is detected in human beings but hasn't taken them ill. Under the plan, such individuals will be put under observation in designated hospitals as provincial health departments study the epidemiology.
Yellow means individuals are taken ill with the virus and all medical facilities nearby are required to be put on alert. The Ministry of Health will also inform the public of the outbreak and preventive measures taken.
Orange is when human-to-human infections occur among a small group of people.
In this situation, people are encouraged to dial a special phone number to report outbreaks. Schools, factories and other institutions will be closed, in addition to a number of other measures.
Red level marks the most severe threat, when a large-scale flu outbreak occurs.
Correspondingly, health authorities will report the outbreak on a regular basis, and will give out medications and vaccines against the virus.
Dr Julie Hall, coordinator in charge of communicable disease surveillance and response with World Health Organization (WHO) China, said late last week that a pandemic is overdue.
Thirty-seven years have passed since China last reported an outbreak.
Yang said inoculation and surveillance are only measures to curb an endemic.
(China Daily September 12, 2005)