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Tuberculosis Remains Top Epidemic Killer
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Tuberculosis remained the top epidemic killer last year, claiming 3,339 lives on the Chinese mainland, according to a Ministry of Health report released on Tuesday.

Rabies was the second leading killer among the 27 listed infectious diseases, causing 3,215 deaths, the ministry said. The canine-borne disease appeared to be the most lethal, as all of the detected cases led to death.

China is second only to India in the number of recorded cases of rabies, the ministry figures showed. Every year more than 50,000 people around the world die of the disease, most of them in developing countries.

After tuberculosis and rabies, AIDS, hepatitis B and encephalitis B were leading killers, said the report.

Last year marked the first appearance of encephalitis B on the list of the top five epidemic killers, according to the ministry. The disease killed 461 people last year, or more than 100 percent more than in the previous year.

A total of 4.608 million cases of infectious diseases, including 10,726 deaths, were reported during the past 12 months on the Chinese mainland.

Tuberculosis, hepatitis B, dysentery, syphilis and gonorrhea were the top five most common infectious diseases, according to the newly released figures.

Accounting for nearly a quarter of the reported epidemic cases, tuberculosis has had the highest incidence rate for many years in row. Ministry statistics show that 80 percent of China's tuberculosis cases, or roughly 5 million people, occurred in rural areas.

In Beijing, which has a population is at least 15 million people, half of the registered tuberculosis infections in 2005 occurred within the mobile population, which primarily consists of migrant laborers.

Out of a fear of being fired or placed in quarantine or of finding themselves unable to pay the high medical costs involved, many of migrant workers are reluctant to seek treatment.

This can be costly in health terms, said Zhang Liyu, president of the Chinese Anti-Tuberculosis Association.

The report said no mass pandemics took place on the Chinese mainland last year. However, sporadic outbreaks of diseases like encephalitis in north China's Shanxi Province, morbilli in northeast China's Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces and dengue in south China's Guangdong Province have occurred.

Twelve human bird-flu infections in nine provinces killed eight people, the ministry said. Infectious diseases in China are classified into three categories by the country's law on prevention and control of communicable diseases. Among the three categories, 27 types of disease are included in the ministry's regular report.

(China Daily February 15, 2007)

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