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China strives to improve public awareness of A/H1N1 flu
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As the A/H1N1 flu continues to spread around the world, Chinese health workers are striving to teach the public how to avoid catching the virus.

From kindergartens to high schools, students are told to wash their hands frequently and avoid crowds. Health and education authorities have ordered schools to be alert to students with flu-like symptoms.

Students returning from abroad are advised to avoid visiting relatives and friends within seven days of arrival in China. They are also asked keep travel details, including boarding cards and hotel room numbers.

Leaflets with advice about the virus are being sent to companies and communities. Posters containing information about the outbreak and preventative measures are posted on community notice boards. Disease control agencies at all levels have set up public inquiry hotlines.

Wang Lin, deputy director of the General Office of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Friday high public awareness was key to preventing the spread of A/H1N1 given China's huge population and large number of migrant people.

Wang said the CDC had handed out 10,000 books on A/H1N1 information to disease control agencies as guidance for the public education campaign.

"The measures, like washing hands and covering coughs or sneezes, are simple, but offer the best protection against infection," he said.

Xu Xiaoli, head of the Health Education Institute of Beijing's Chaoyang District, said her institute had sent 500,000 posters, leaflets and cards containing A/H1N1 information to schools, communities and companies.

"More copies are being made. Our goal is to cover every student, home and migrant worker in our district," she said.

So far China has reported five confirmed A/H1N1 flu cases. No local transmission has been found. But experts warn that theoretically local transmission of the flu is inevitable and China must be ready.

Dr Hans Troedsson, WHO representative in China, said since infected persons can start spreading the virus even before showing symptoms of illness, "the risk (of local transmission of the virus) is there."

"Strict border inspections can help to raise awareness (most of China's confirmed cases reported themselves to the health authorities) but they are not fool-proof when detecting cases," he said.

He said the priority was to mitigate the impact of the virus in China, which meant public education on precautionary measures was important.

"There needs to be a far-reaching campaign to inform people at all levels of society about A (H1N1) and how they can protect themselves against it," he said.

Meanwhile, China should maintain its state of heightened surveillance to detect and treat cases early, and health care services and facilities should be prepared for a pandemic, he said.

(Xinhua News Agency May 22, 2009)

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