The Ministry of Health (MOH) has reported that 515 people died in "public health incidents" in 2007 in China, up 17.8 percent from the previous year.
More than 98,254 people were involved in 2,552 such incidents in 2007, down 31.9 and 7.7 percent, respectively, according to the MOH web site.
Such incidents, by MOH definition, include epidemics, food poisoning, pollution and job-related poisoning.
The MOH attributed the rising death toll to a higher number of food poisoning and environmental pollution cases, although exact figures weren't released.
Among the five cases that the MOH categorized as "major incidents," three were related to avian flu and the other two to job-related poisoning. The five cases involved 23 people and killed 12.
The ministry said that situation was unlikely to have shown an overall change in 2008, but it added that "schools, especially elementary and middle schools in rural areas, are likely to be the venue of public health incidents".
(Xinhua News Agency January 17, 2008)