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China Vows to Strengthen Rat Plague Prevention

China will intensify preventive measures against rat plague, which can be contracted and spread by human beings, the health minister said.

Chen Zhu, the Minister of Health, said the plague should be treated as a major public health emergency and health departments at all levels should try their best to prevent it.

Infectious diseases in China are classified into three categories under the Law on the Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, and plague belongs to the most dangerous A-Class, together with cholera.

Chen said plague prevention along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway should also be intensified. Qinghai is a province that has experienced deaths from plague over the past five years.

Experts say that plague, usually carried by marmots in Qinghai and Tibet, could be carried further afield by the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

"Relevant departments should cooperate to intensify plague prevention and control work," Chen said, adding that animal-to-animal transmission should be stamped out to protect humans.

Plague is a fatal bacterial disease transmitted by fleas from infected rats and by contact with infected blood or tissue. The most common form, the bubonic plague, causes high fever, delirium and swollen lymph nodes.

China has only reported a single case of bubonic plague through October this year. It occurred in northwest Gansu Province in September.

(Xinhua News Agency November 21, 2007)

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