The Chinese Ministry of Health on Thursday issued an emergency
response plan for dealing with a mass illness of unknown
A mass illness of unknown origin is defined as at least three
cases with the same clinical symptoms occurring in one place in a
period of two weeks. Such cases would stand out as severe or fatal
and have symptoms that cannot be explained by doctors above county
Examples of a contained area include: a medical institution,
village, community, construction site, or school; the case may be
an infectious disease, poisoning, or other unknown illnesses.
The plan classifies incidents according to three levels of
severity, and requires local governments to work out graded
emergency response measures.
Any individual or organization is required to report a mass
illness of unknown origin to health departments under the State
Council or local health authorities.
"Local medical institutions or medical practitioners must report
incidents by phone or fax to local health authorities within two
hours, and those able to make on-line reports must do so
immediately," the plan states.
It notes that medical personnel who reach the scene where an
infectious illness is reported must take protective measures,
quarantine patients, and if necessary suggest that the area be
Schools or factories where an incident happens should suspend
classes or production if necessary, and relatives of the patients
or those in close contact with them would be placed under medical
The bodies of patients or animals must be thoroughly disinfected
and samples should be collected in accordance with relevant
All items at the location of an incident, including plants,
animals, surrounding environment, and any surface at the scene,
must be disinfected, and poultry and livestock in the area must be
kept in enclosed places.
If necessary, wild animals or poultry that may have been
infected should be controlled or slaughtered after approval from
the local government.
The plan recommends raising public awareness through education,
and requires that medical waste and quarantined items be properly
dealt with when at-scene treatment is complete.
(Xinhua News Agency February 9, 2007)