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No Mass Health Problems in Quake Zone, Ministry Says

A Ministry of Health spokesman said in Beijing on Monday that there had been no major epidemics or public health incidents in the quake-hit areas of southwest China's Sichuan Province.

Mao Qun'an said in an online interview with netizens at the central government's that if there is an outbreak of disease, it will be publicized promptly and transparently.

He said the ministry and the provincial government have been open with all monitoring reports concerning epidemics in the quake zone.

Mao said that deep burial of earthquake victims in Sichuan had been "scientifically handled" and would not contaminate water sources. Quarantine task forces dug deep pits and sterilized the victims' bodies before burial.

The 8.0-magnitude quake on May 12 claimed at least 69,019 lives, left 18,627 missing, injured 373,573 and displaced 15 million people as of Monday noon, official statistics show.

Mao said the ministry had done its utmost to prevent water sources, particularly those for drinking, from possible contamination.

He said that 10,015 people injured during the massive earthquake have been transferred to hospitals outside Sichuan.

More than 5,000 medical professionals were mobilized from Beijing, Shanghai, Liaoning and many other provinces.

The injured were immediately transported to 340 better-equipped hospitals in those provinces, Mao said. Sichuan does not have enough medical resources to accommodate all the injured.

"As time goes by, the major killers of in-patients are multiple organ failure and complicated drug-resistant infections, in comparison with the crush injuries and acute renal failure commonly seen in early periods after the quake," Mao said.

The ministry sent expert teams to hospitals to oversee and offer advice on treatment for patients under intensive care, the spokesman said.

He pointed out that the few hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD) cases that occurred recently in the quake-hit areas have been brought under control.

"The Ministry of Health has required that HFMD cases must be reported since May 2 this year," said Mao. "Any HFMD case in the quake-hit areas will be reported immediately through our system."

Some relief workers had experienced rashes as a result of poor personal sanitary conditions. "However, things will improve, as we immediately delivered the necessary medicine to them," he said.

The ministry had purchased up to 220 million yuan (some US$31.7 million) worth of medical products for areas hit hard by the earthquake.

Some 1,898 tons of disinfectants have been delivered to quake areas, Mao said.

The health system has organized 139,642 medical workers for earthquake relief, 91,298 of whom are in Sichuan Province, according to Mao.

Most medical workers at the relief work front now are physicians and skin disease experts, instead of mainly surgeons as in the early period after the quake, he said.

The ministry has sent more than 200 psychologists and medical workers to carry out counseling in Sichuan.

(Xinhua News Agency June 3, 2008)

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