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Health Authorities Warn Against Meningitis Epidemic

On Monday, the Ministry of Health has urged the whole country to help prevent further spread of the meningitis outbreak that has reportedly caused at least eight deaths in eastern Anhui Province and sixteen nationally.

Anhui's health department said that between December 20 and January 28, they received reports of 61 cases, mostly amongst school students aged 13 to 18. Forty-nine have recovered and seven are still in quarantine.

Total reported cases nationwide numbered 258 in January, up 94 on the same period last year, with 16 reported deaths.

The ministry asked the public to do what they can to help, stressing that type C meningitis is contagious and could be spread further with increased travel over the Spring Festival holidays.

In order to prevent a greater epidemic, they asked all health authorities to step up monitoring and reporting of the illness, and to make sure they publicize timely and precise reports on its progress.

They instructed medical institutes to prepare enough vaccines, with a focus on regions with dense populations.

The ministry's statement called on everyone to help in identifying, reporting, diagnosing and treating new cases as early as possible. Patients should be isolated and treated quickly to increase the likelihood of their recovery and reduce the risk of them transmitting the infection to others.

They also urged the public to pay attention to their own health and to general hygiene. Health, education and transport authorities were asked to work together to maintain cleanliness in public places.

Medical experts suggested that people, especially students at high and primary schools, do more physical exercise to increase their immunity. They also said that those suffering from fever, headache, sore throat or cough should go to hospital for treatment.

Meningitis is an inflammation of membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, and can have a number of different causes, including both bacteria and viruses. Symptoms include fever, vomiting and intense headache, and some forms of bacterial meningitis are contagious through close contact via respiratory secretions.

In the past, outbreaks of meningitis were often type A, but this has effectively been controlled since type A vaccination began to be routinely provided for children in 1984.

The current type C meningitis can spread more easily than type A, and is more difficult to control.

(Xinhua News Agency February 1, 2005)

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