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Beijing girds up for fight against influenza
( 2003-09-10 07:05) (China Daily)

More than 420 inoculation stations in Beijing will start to offer influenza inoculations late this month, according to officials of the Beijing Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

A Chinese woman visits an Anti-SARS exhibition in Beijing September 5, 2003. The head of the World Health Organisation warned health specialists on Monday of a possible resurgence of the deadly SARS virus later this year and urged countries to boost surveillance to contain the threat. Picture taken and first moved on wire September 5, 2003. [Reuters]

The period between November and January is the high-incidence season for influenza, so the number of influenza monitoring stations in Beijing has been increased from 18 to 38.

All 427 inoculation stations across the city are prepared, the Beijing Daily quoted sources from the centre as saying.

Medical experts have encouraged inoculations among people prone to influenza infections, such as children and senior citizens. The inoculation regimen is expected to help in monitoring possible SARS cases, as the disease has symptoms similar to those of influenza.

Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said yesterday that China has been taking various measures to prevent severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) from recurring.

Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Monday that the  "zero'' report mechanism for SARS has remained unchanged since April 20, when the system was introduced.

This means that no matter whether there are SARS cases or not, reports are always requested, according to the ministry.

 "As far as I know, there have been no probable or suspected SARS cases reported in Beijing or in other places on China's mainland up to September 8,'' Kong said at a regular news briefing yesterday.

Recently, there have been rumours that SARS cases have shown up again in Beijing. The Beijing Office of the World Health Organization (WHO) has also sent a letter to the MOH, requesting clarification of the situation.

An official with the health ministry's information office said on Monday the reason behind such rumours is that autumn is the season with a high incidence of infectious respiratory diseases and therefore people are extremely suspicious of symptoms like fever and cough, both typical SARS symptoms.

However, he pointed out, the high awareness would help prevent a recurrence of SARS.

Also, drawing on the lessons of spring, health departments at all levels have been asked to formulate emergency plans in advance in order to prevent a recurrence of the disease, which may also have aroused misunderstanding among the public.

If the epidemic reappears, the ministry and local health departments will release relevant and timely information to the public, the official said.

WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook in Manila on Monday called for enhanced surveillance to deal with a possible recurrence of SARS.

 "We have to prepare on the assumption that this (SARS) will come back,'' Lee from the Republic of Korea said in a speech at the opening of the 54th session of the WHO regional committee for the Western Pacific, according to Xinhua.

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