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Outbreak of Japanese encephalitis in Guangdong has Hong Kong worried
Taipei Times ^ | 6.21.03

Posted on 06/21/2003 8:17:45 PM PDT by Enemy Of The State

Outbreak of Japanese encephalitis in Guangdong has Hong Kong worried
AP AND REUTERS
Saturday, Jun 21, 2003,Page 5

An outbreak of Japanese encephalitis that flared up in a southern Chinese province just as the SARS epidemic was dying down has prompted calls in Hong Kong for faster and better reporting of infectious diseases in China.

A senior Hong Kong official was meeting with officials in Guangdong Province yesterday to try to determine the extent of the encephalitis outbreak, as the city tightened precautions against the disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes and, unlike SARS, not by human-to-human contact.

Guangdong health officials and state-run media reported 211 encephalitis cases, with 18 deaths, as of yesterday. The province has vaccinated 100,000 children in the past week as a precaution.

Hong Kong's ordeal with SARS, by far the worst in a series of health scares since this British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, has left residents nervous about health risks from across the border.

"What we need to know is to understand the extent of the outbreak in China and to see whether we need to have additional measures," the health secretary, Dr. Yeoh Eng-kiong, told reporters yesterday.

Japanese encephalitis is endemic to much of Southeast and East Asia. Hong Kong reports up to two cases a year, but they usually are imported from elsewhere. The most recent case of local transmission was in 1996, when the disease killed a 15-year-old boy.

The disease causes mild, flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, nausea and fatigue in most victims. However, it can cause serious brain inflammation in a few.

In some regions, children are routinely vaccinated for the virus, but in big cities like Hong Kong and Beijing, doctors often recommend against the shot unless a family expects to spend time in rural areas.

So far, there is no indication the encephalitis outbreak has spread to the territory.

Yeoh said Hong Kong had already stepped up surveillance for the disease, but was waiting for more information before deciding whether additional precautions were needed.


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1 posted on 06/21/2003 8:17:46 PM PDT by Enemy Of The State
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