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

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

Local people were told how to protect themselves from contracting the disease, while sanitation and vaccinations were enhanced in affected and nearby areas, Zhou said.

All the efforts have paid off and the epidemic situation has now been brought under control, Zhou said.

As of yesterday, Yuncheng reported 60 people infected with the disease. Of them 19 have died, six have recovered and have been discharged from hospital, and 31 others are still in hospital, of whom eight are in a critical condition. Four people are 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 disease control centre. Daily reports on the epidemic situation have been carried out by local disease control centres since August 10.

Encephalitis B causes an inflammation of the brain, and it 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 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 per cent of the total of Shanxi Province every year, he added.

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

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 centre.

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 3 yuan (US$0.37) for the injection.

Local media are calling for people to clean up their neighbourhoods by sweeping away pools of standing water in which mosquitoes can breed.

(China Daily August 14, 2006)

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