Health risks increase for China quake survivors
21 May 2008
BEIJING – The risk of epidemic diseases was rising for millions of survivors of a devastating earthquake in south-western China, the government warned Wednesday, as state media reported 58 cases of gas gangrene among people injured in the quake.
The Health Ministry has stepped up efforts to isolate infected patients and prevent epidemics at hospitals treating more than 270,000 people injured in the magnitude-8 May 12 quake, the official China Daily quoted ministry spokesman Mao Qun’an as saying.
The 58 gas gangrene cases were reported at several major hospitals in quake-hit Sichuan province, where about 30 of the patients required amputation of their infected limbs, the newspaper said.
Gas gangrene is a rapidly spreading form of gangrene in injured tissue infected by a soil bacterium.
The first five cases were at the Huaxi hospital in the provincial capital, Chengdu, where Shi Yingkang, the head of the hospital, told state television that isolation and screening procedures were being used.
"So far, there has not been any case of cross-infection among the patients at the hospital," Shi was quoted as saying.
Medical staff in Sichuan should also be on alert for other infectious diseases, such as diarrhoea, hepatitis A and cholera, Zeng Guang, a government epidemiologist, told the China Daily.
The Health Ministry plans to send about 3,500 specialists in epidemic prevention and sanitation inspection to quake-hit areas over the next five days.
A 320-member team specialising in hospital infection containment travelled to Sichuan Monday while the ministry has printed 5.3 million leaflets on hygiene and disease prevention for survivors of the quake, which killed more than 41,000 people and left at least 33,000 missing.
The environment ministry issued a circular Tuesday warning local residents to avoid any water sources that could have been contaminated by dead bodies still buried under collapsed buildings.
It said medical waste and the "repeated use of disinfectants and plague-prevention drugs also pose great threats to the safety of drinking water".
The Red Cross on Tuesday said health risks for survivors were "aggravated by poor sanitary conditions, poor nutrition, the drop in night temperature and the lack of shelter and clothing".
"Those working in the affected areas face a huge task in providing safe water and sanitation for the large number of displaced people," the group said in a report from Sichuan.
"In a camp of over 30,000 people in Mianyang prefecture, only 150 toilets are available, resulting in long queues of up to 20 minutes," it said, adding that the camp had no shower facilities.
"Under these conditions, the threat of an outbreak of diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections remains high," the Red Cross said.
[dpa / Expatica]