Sports/Olympics / Beijing in Preparation

Beijing prepares emergency health response for Olympics
Updated: 2006-05-19 16:38

BEIJING, May 19 -- Beijing is making preparations to tackle possible public health incidents during the 2008 Olympic Games, particularly in regard to epidemic outbreaks.

Public health safety was a crucial precondition and guarantee of a successful international sports event such as the Olympics, said Wang Yu, director of Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

An inadequate emergency response to major public health incidents prior to or during the event could mar the games, he said.

China has established a nationwide electronic network for reporting epidemics, operated by at least 207,000 CDC staff, the largest of its kind in the world, Wang told a workshop on public health safety and emergency response for the Beijing Olympic Games.

By the end of last year, 100 percent of local CDCs and 93 percent of health institutes above county level had realized direct reporting of infectious disease and public health emergencies through the network.

"However, China is still inexperienced in providing public health services and disease prevention and control for major international events, which needs improving," Wang said.

The influx of visitors in 2008 would bring enormous challenges to daily surveillance and reporting mechanisms regarding infectious, chemical, environmental and non-communicable diseases, said Henk Bekedam, World Health Organization Representative in China.

"To tackle any possible public health accidents, a strong surveillance system must be in place as soon as possible, not only focusing on the three-week long Olympic Games, but also the months before," Bekedam said.

Wang Yu said the goal was to provide a sensitive, high-coverage surveillance network before and during the 2008 Olympic Games, which is able to detect epidemic outbreaks and launch immediate emergency measures.

Beijing health authorities pledged at the workshop that 140 ambulances would attend Games venues every day.

"During the Games, we will take every measure to ensure no outbreak or spread of illness, to control individual and newly-imported cases, to ensure no food or drinking water poisoning incidents in the Olympic Village, sports facilities, hotels and restaurants," said Liang Wannian, deputy head of the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau.

The Organizing Committee of Beijing Olympic Games has already selected farming and breeding bases to provide food for athletes, officials and visitors, according to officials with the organizing committee.

Strict tests and experiments will be carried out on livestock and vegetables to ensure athletes and visitors are offered the highest quality food available.

Risk assessments of major infectious diseases and public health safety for the Games in 2008 are underway, which cover environmental hygiene, drinking water safety and occupational hazards.

Meanwhile, health workers will undergo training and exercises in dealing with public health incidents, said Liang, adding public health and hygiene campaigns would operate in the run-up to the Olympics.