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Official: Epidemics possible in drought-hit areas
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A senior disease control official warned in Beijing Tuesday of increased epidemic risks in China's drought-stricken areas.

"Drought has affected the basic hygiene of local people and greatly increased the risk of infections," said Wang Yu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at a meeting

China is experiencing its worst drought in decades and eight of the mainland's 31 provincial divisions have been severely affected. As of Monday, 3.46 million people and 1.66 million head of livestock were running short of drinking water.

Drought-stricken areas would run short of clean water for drinking and other daily use, such as household cleaning, as conditions worsened, said Wang. "People will be more vulnerable to intestinal infectious diseases, which could lead to an outbreak. Malnutrition will also spread if the drought lingers for too long."

Local disease control departments have been told to tighten monitoring of water quality, especially drinking water in rural areas, he said.

They would also be on alert for infectious disease outbreaks and report to the heath authorities when suspicious cases were detected, he added.

Wang Jian, another expert at the center, advised people not to drink unboiled water and to try their best to maintain personal hygiene.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs said in a Tuesday statement that local civil affairs departments have been mobilized to provide food and drinking water to needy people.

(Xinhua News Agency February 11, 2009)

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