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Rabies, Anthrax Closely Monitored in Quake-hit Yushu

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Epidemic prevention personnel are closely monitoring rabies, anthrax and other contagious diseases capable of animal-to-human transfer in quake-hit Yushu in northwest China's Qinghai Province, a senior veterinarian official said Friday.

Li Jinxiang, director of the veterinary department in the Ministry of Agriculture, told a press conference the ministry is planning to vaccinate dogs to prevent a possible outbreak of rabies in the quake-struck region.

Although the quake-hit region has reported no rabies outbreak, many dogs raised by local herdsmen may carry the rabies virus as the environment changed after the quake, Li said.

Many dogs are wandering the streets in Yushu and sniffing garbage in search of food. Some media and rescue workers have reported being bitten by the dogs in the past week.

"This aroused our attention and we are preparing to vaccinate all dogs in the quake region," Li said.

More than 2,100 people and about 41,000 livestock were killed in the magnitude-7.1 earthquake that jolted the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu, Qinghai Province, on April 14.

"If the bodies of dead livestock are not disposed of properly, the quake-hit region may become prone to an outbreak of animal-to-human disease," Li said.

He said the ministry has transported more than 20,000 disinfection sets, sprayers and protective suits to the quake region.

The bio-safe disposal of dead cattle has already been completed in Jiegu Town, the quake's epicenter, he added.

The veterinarian official said the MOA will also enhance efforts to prevent the plague, anthrax and echinococcosis, a disease caused by infection of the tapeworm's larvae.

Anthrax is one of the oldest lethal diseases. It was originally caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis among ruminants like sheep and cattle. The disease can infect both humans and animals.

The bacterium can form dormant spores able to survive in harsh conditions for long periods of time, decades or even centuries.

"We have prepared an emergency response plan in case the cracked earth surface exposes Bacillus anthracis bacterium to the public or cattle," he said.

"If a massive animal epidemic outbreak occurs, all members of the MOA emergency response group will immediately rush there," he added.

(Xinhua News Agency April 23, 2010)

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