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Text messages help to prevent disease outbreak
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Medics and specialists are reporting the health situation in the quake zones through text messages to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an official said.

Normally this is reported through the Web-based disease sentinel surveillance and reporting system, which was established in 2003, Feng Zijian, director of the center's emergency response department, told China Daily on Thursday.

However, only 12 of the system's 466 sentinel sites covering the quake zones remain in order, Ma Jiaqi, the center's information chief, said.

"The SMS reporting system is of big help," he said.

Health professionals at treatment facilities, including temporary on-site medical stations and makeshift shelters, are reporting on the health situation on a daily basis, Ma said.

More mobile phones will being handed out in the areas, he said, adding the biggest difficulty is gaining access to some of the areas. "But, we are trying our best to cover all the areas in 10 days," he said.

"The SMS reporting system is crucial in keeping experts updated with the latest public health conditions and possible threats, so that we can take timely and effective action."

As of on Thursday no major outbreak of disease had been reported, Xinhua said.

However, the huge pressure to prevent the outbreak of disease remains, Feng said.

Top concerns include cramped living conditions at the shelters, food and water safety, proper disposal of garbage, and dead bodies, he said.

More than 5,000 health workers have fanned out to disinfect villages, and doctors and nurses are stationed round the clock at shelters.

The CDC will introduce more vaccination drives for children, who are particularly vulnerable, Feng said.

Currently, sporadic cases of hepatitis A, diarrhea, and hand-foot-mouth disease have been detected at some of the quake hit areas, Ni Fang, a researcher with the CDC, told the 21st Century Business Herald in Mianzhu, Sichuan.

Some of the shelters still lack proper hygiene, such as toilets, he said. "Some people are keeping their pet dogs and cats at the shelters, they also pose a health risk."

(China Daily May 23, 2008)

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