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Official urges strengthening of lab safety
Updated: 2004-07-09 09:02

Strengthening lab biosafety is an important and urgent task for the national health system, and all medical care institutions must take effective measures to step up lab safety management,a top health official said in Beijing Thursday.

Gao Qiang,executive vice-minister of health,made the call at a national teleconference on disease prevention and control.

Just a week ago,Li Liming,director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention,had resigned after a laboratory inthe center was confirmed as the source of the country's severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)outbreak earlier this year.

Four of Li's colleagues were also disciplined due to the SARS virus infection of some staff members earlier this year,and a total of nine people were declared as SARS patients during April and May.

Poor management of the virus triggered the SARS outbreak in Beijing and Anhui Province in east China. The SARS recurrence has been determined as a case of major accident due to negligence,theMinistry of Health has said.

"That sounds the alarm for the nation's lab safety management," Gao Qiang said. "The necessary punishment for some cadres is to help consolidate the responsibility awareness for relevant officials and establish a responsibility system for major accidents."

"Another purpose is to protect the health of researchers and keep their enthusiasm for work,since scientific studies of disease prevention and control,especially studies of virology,are a kind of job with high risks," he said.

Therefore, he urged the Health Ministry and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention to take effective measures to protect researchers'health.

"High-risk posts must be equipped with necessary safety facilities,"he said."And a monitoring and reporting system of researchers'health must be strictly carried out."

"In addition,we can designate special hospitals for treatment of researchers.It can not only secure an effective treatment,butalso guard against spread of diseases to the society,"he said.

Gao Qiang also called on the medical care institutions to step up training for their staff members to improve the capability of identifying infectious disease,and step up control of in-house infection of the hospital.

A total of nine people were confirmed as SARS patients during April and May.The nine cases included two from Anhui Province,east China,and seven from Beijing.

Beijing reported China's first suspected SARS case of this yearon April 22and the patient surnamed Li and a 26year-old girl surnamed Song were declared diagnosed SARS patients the next day.

Li apparently caught the disease when taking care of hospitalized Song from March 29to April 2at Beijing-based Jiangong Hospital.Song's mother who also looked after the studentat the same hospital died of SARS.

Song,a medical student from Anhui Medical University,was thenpresumed to have contracted the disease when serving as an intern at the Beijing-based Institute of Virus Diseases under the center from March 7to 22.

A medical researcher surnamed Yang,31,with the institute was reported as a suspected case of SARS on April 23.

The outbreak had been contained by May 22after one diagnosed SARS patient died and eight others recovered and were discharged from hospital.

Soon after the eruption of the disease,an expert team was set up consisting of members of China's Academy of Military Medical Sciences,and Beijing and national disease prevention and control centers.

The team has made epidemiological investigations into the two cases and interviewed all the staff working at the laboratory of the Virology Institute,the Health Ministry said.

A total of 5,327cases of SARS were reported in 2003in 24provincial areas on the mainland,including 349deaths.The disease was under control in mid August of that year.

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