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China Issues Health Crisis Response Plan
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The Chinese Ministry of Health on Thursday issued an emergency response plan for dealing with a mass illness of unknown origin.


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 hospital level.


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 cordoned off.


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 observation.


The bodies of patients or animals must be thoroughly disinfected and samples should be collected in accordance with relevant regulations.


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)

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