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Health of Victims Priority in Relief Work

From the mobilization of more hospitals for treating patients to mass vaccinations for preventing disease outbreaks, the authorities are pushing ahead with measures to ensure the health of victims hit by the May 12 quake in Sichuan Province.

To ease the strain on medical staff and hospitals treating quake victims in the province, more than 10,000 people injured by the 8-magnitude temblor have been transferred to hospitals in other parts of the country as of yesterday, Xinhua News Agency reported.

As of Saturday, hospitals in major cities had treated 89,818 quake survivors, of whom 59,877 have been discharged, latest official statistics have showed.

Those injured by the quake were transferred by air or railway to 340 better-equipped hospitals and municipalities including Beijing, Shanghai, Liaoning and Yunnan, where more than 5,000 local medical professionals were mobilized.

"The nationwide transfer of patients is a miracle in the medical service history of China," Ministry of Health spokesman Mao Qun'an said yesterday during an online interview on

Children under 12 at quake-hit areas including Chengdu, Mianyang, Guangyuan and Aba are also being vaccinated against outbreaks of the highly contagious hepatitis A and encephalitis B diseases in a 10-day program that started on Sunday, the ministry said.

The authorities in Sichuan have also stocked up vaccines for diseases such as rabies, anthrax, measles, and hemorrhagic fever, and are ready for mass inoculation when necessary, officials said.

More than 16,000 epidemic control experts are working on the ground to guard against major outbreaks in the aftermath of the quake, Mao said.

Water and food safety, proper hygiene at shelters, and the disposal of dead bodies and garbage remain the top priorities, Mao said.

The burial of victims in the province has been "scientifically handled" and would not contaminate water sources, he said.

Mao also urged those in the quake zones to exercise good hygiene and guard against skin diseases.

Currently, major killers of quake victims include multiple organ failure and drug-resistant infections, he said.

Previously, crush syndrome (CS) -- a serious medical condition characterized by major shock and renal failure following a crushing injury to skeletal muscle from disasters including earthquakes -- and acute renal failure were mainly to blame for the deaths, Mao said.

Victims might die later in hospitals because of organ failure caused by CS, Mao said.

"The death rate was relatively high in the period immediately following the quake," he said.

The number of deaths at treatment facilities is currently under 4,000, Mao said.

The death rate dropped substantially because of concentrated medical treatment provided by experienced medical staff, he said.

However, hospital infections, which cannot be cured by many antibiotics, have become a major health challenge for the quake survivors, he acknowledged.

The injured, usually suffering from open wounds, are vulnerable and at great risk of infection, he added.

To help the victims, the ministry has sent medical experts to hospitals to oversee and offer advice on the treatment of patients under intensive care.

(China Daily June 3, 2008)

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