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Snail Fever Poses Threat to Public Health

A senior health official warned Friday that the number of snail fever patients in China has increase drastically in recent years, posing a threat to public health security.

Inadequate control of infection sources, severe outbreaks, people's unawareness of the disease and lack of prevention measures in some regions are the major problems, said Deputy Health Minister Wang Longde at a symposium here marking the 100th anniversary of the finding of China's first such case.

"We must clearly acknowledge that the situation in preventing the spread of the disease is quite severe," he noted.

Statistics from the Ministry of Health show that approximately 1.5 million heads of cattle live in the seven provinces where the outbreak of snail fever, or schistosomiasis, has been registered.

Both human and animal excrements, especially those from infected animals, have not been properly processed and led to water pollution, which is considered to be the main source of infection.

To take good control of the excrements is the best way to curb the spread of the virus from the parasitic worm, the official said.

Wang also attributed the spread of the disease to people's ignorance and inadequate education.

China registered 457 acute schistosomiasis cases in the first nine months of this year, a 35 percent decrease as against the same period last year, statistics from the ministry show. About 816 people were infected with the disease in 2004.

Carried by waterborne parasites, which can penetrate human skin and produce eggs in the liver to block blood flaw, the disease can cause liver, urinary, lung and nervous system disorders.

Chronic patients suffer high fever, weakness of the limbs and severe stiffness of the joints.

Wang said that China's 11th Five-Year Program for National Economy and Social Development has put "improving the health condition for urban and rural residents" as an important goal.

Vice Premier Wu Yi will preside over a work meeting on preventing the spread of schistosomiasis in Jiangxi Province next year. China expects to put the disease under control by 2007, he said.

(Xinhua News Agency October 29, 2005)

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