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300 infected with measles in Sichuan
By Liu Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-04-27 07:55

The measles outbreaks infecting about 300 people have been reported in Southwest China's Sichuan Province since January, the Sichuan Provincial Bureau of Health officials said yesterday.

Local health authorities have issued a public notice over the measles epidemic for the first time this year, along with information on other infectious diseases such as nettle rash, epidemic parotitis and varicella.

"Nearly 300 people have been infected by measles so far this year," said an official surnamed Xiao with the bureau's epidemic prevention and treatment office.

The official said the figure showed an increase compared with previous years, but would not elaborate.

"The reporting system (for these types of outbreaks) was not that good in the past, and there could be cases where some people are infected but have not been reported," he said.

"Most of the patients this year are students at primary and middle schools in rural areas."

Meanwhile, schools in more urbanized areas of some counties in the province are also involved in the measles outbreaks, but large cities have so far not reported infections.

Seven cities and autonomous prefectures are related to the measles outbreak, which covers a bigger area this year than before.

"Countryside areas are suffering from bad quarantine conditions and many schools are rather crowded," the official explained as to why the outbreaks are so prevalent in rural areas.

According to Xiao, in some rural areas roughly 70 students share a classroom measuring 40 square metres, and it is very easy to transmit airborne viruses.

Meanwhile, because many of those infected have not been inoculated against measles, the local authorities have begun immunization programmes, especially for children who have been in close contact with confirmed cases, according to sources.

"As Sichuan is located in the inland of Southwest China, the weather is humid and warm. Meanwhile, the population is rather large. These factors have helped create a favourable environment for infection of respiratory diseases, especially measles," sources with the provincial health bureau explained.

Spring is ordinarily a season that witnesses an obvious increase in respiratory diseases.

Measles is a kind of acute respiratory disease with symptoms characterized by rashes, fever and coughing.

The provincial health department has reminded residents to adopt a number of measures to protect themselves.

For example, residents are advised to circulate fresh air in working and living spaces and to wash their hands frequently, and to see a physician if they are suffering from any symptoms.

According to statistics from April of last year, measles is the fourth most serious infectious disease after viral hepatitis, pulmonary tuberculosis and dysentery in Sichuan Province.

Measles was at one time one of the most frequently transmitted infectious diseases for Chinese children, until vaccines were widely introduced nationwide in the 1950s.

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