Health officials warn of China flu peak in next two months
2009-12-11 13:14:57 Print
BEIJING, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- China will face increasing pressure to control the spread of A/H1N1 flu in the next two months, said the Ministry of Health Friday.
"As the New Year and Spring Festival draw near, the country is expecting a huge number of travelers nationwide, which will further increase pressure to control the flu," said Deng Haihua, ministry spokesman, at a press conference.
A/H1N1 flu continued to spread and the number of cases, especially serious cases, was rising, Deng said. "The epidemic showed high activity as about 91 percent of flu cases were A/H1N1 flu in China."
The total number of confirmed cases of A/H1N1 flu in the mainland had topped 100,000 and fatalities totaled 326 by Wednesday.
In the week from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6, the country reported 125 deaths from the A/H1N1 flu.
The next two months would be "very critical" for flu control, Deng said.
Seasonal flu reached a peak in December and January and A/H1N1 flu could follow the same pattern. Both natural and social factors would contribute to the peak, said Liang Wannian, director of the ministry's emergency reaction office, at the press conference.
"Some experts estimate the peak will last till March. We will closely watch developments," he said.
China started A/H1N1 flu vaccinations in September and about 32.38 million people on the mainland had been vaccinated by Wednesday, according to the ministry.
"The vaccination proved to be effective in curbing the spread of the flu," he said.
By Monday, about 3,631 people had been suspected of having adverse reactions against the vaccine.
"About one in 1 million vaccinated people reported serious adverse reactions in China. This neither exceeded the ratio in clinical tests of A/H1N1 flu vaccines at home and abroad nor figures in other countries where mass vaccinations were conducted," Deng said.
Although the vaccinations proceeded smoothly, the health authorities would work even harder to cover more people, Deng said.
More people would be included in priority groups, including expectant mothers, veterinarians and migrant workers, he said.
Liang Xiaofeng, a director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the conference that clinical tests carried out by the United States had shown the A/H1N1 influenza vaccines were generally safe and effective on pregnant women.
The ministry reported Wednesday that about 13.7 percent of the country's 326 deaths from the flu were pregnant women.
Deng also said migrant workers employed in labor-intensive work units would become a focus group for the nationwide inoculation program.
In November, the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau's announcement of plans to vaccinate its 12 million permanent residents before the migrant population drew heated discussion on the Internet and public complaints.
The municipal bureau later said it would consider free vaccination to migrant residents.
"We will speed up the vaccinations," Liang said. "Now about 1 million people are vaccinated daily on average. We hope the figure will increase to 1.5 million daily so that as many as vulnerable people as possible will be vaccinated before the Spring Festival."
The festival and seven-day national vacation, traditionally for family reunions, will run from Feb. 13 to 19.
On Thursday, health bureau in south China's Guangdong Province confirmed the body of a three-year-old baby infected with A/H1N1 flu disease was found in a dry ditch at Shihu village of Guangzhou city on Wednesday afternoon.
Police said after a preliminary investigation that the baby, Zhou Hongdu, might have been dumped by his parents because of the high cost of treatment.
As the government's ability to provide medical help for disadvantaged groups under such circumstances was called into question, the ministry would closely monitor the investigation the follow-up work, said Liang.
Liang said preventive treatment of A/H1N1, such as vaccinations, was free, and later treatment costs were included in the public medical insurance system.
The treatment costs differed according to region, age and profession, and the ministry has been collecting data to better guide A/H1N1 flu prevention and treatment, Liang said.
The baby was sent to hospital by its parents on Nov. 26 after showing symptoms of fever and coughing. He was in serious condition later with complications caused by acute bronchitis and respiratory failure.
On Dec. 6, his parents requested hospital stop treatment and left the hospital with the baby. Three days later, the baby's body was found by sanitation workers, and his parents denied dumping the child.
Police are continuing to investigate the case.