Better rural healthcare needed

By Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-19 08:56

Bird flu could spread fast in rural areas in case of an outbreak because of the loopholes in the public health system, Health Minister Gao Qiang warned yesterday.

Speaking at the China Development Forum, Gao conceded that the country's disease control and prevention system needed more professional medical staff, better infrastructure and more funds.

The bird flu virus has claimed 14 human lives on the mainland since 2003.

"There are loopholes at the grassroots level because of the absence of specialized professionals, poor emergency response mechanism and incomplete information network at the county- and town-level disease control and prevention institutions," he said.

"Bird flu has become a serious new contagious disease threatening human health," he said. "And rural areas are more susceptible to a bird flu attack."

"A deficient disease control and prevention system in rural areas could become a big obstacle in the efforts to check the spread of bird flu."

Last month, a farmer in Jian'ou in East China's Fujian Province tested positive for the dreaded bird flu strain of H5N1, becoming the latest human infection case on the mainland.

The 44-year-old woman, surnamed Li, who is being treated at a hospital in Jian'ou, is still in a critical condition, says Xinhua. But no chickens, ducks or wild birds around Li's village were found to be suffering from the strain.

Minister of Agriculture Sun Zhengcai had said before the National People's Congress annual session that the ministry had not detected any animal bird flu cases since September 20.

One of the hardest things to do in the prevention and control of bird flu, however, is to trace the source of the disease, Gao said.

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