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City hospitals, airports put on pandemic alert

NO human cases of swine flu have been reported in Shanghai, but local authorities are stepping up monitoring at hospitals and airports to guard against the arrival of a disease that seems to be spreading around the world.

Hospitals were ordered to enhance vigilance in their fever clinics and remain on the lookout for sick people who either recently visited the countries where swine flu has been reported or who had been in contact with pigs.

The Shanghai Health Bureau said it is requiring hospitals to report each suspected case immediately for early quarantine and treatment.

"A plan targeting swine flu has been developed by the bureau, which will carry out inspections among local hospitals," Song Guofan, a bureau media official, said yesterday.

Local hospitals said they had gained experience in dealing with possible pandemics, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, which rocked China in 2003, and more recently bird flu. They admit, however, that swine flu is new to them.

"Clinically, we haven't received a case of human swine flu, and the courses in our medical universities never mentioned the disease," said Dr Guo Xuejun, director of Xinhua Hospital's respiratory disease department.

He said local hospitals had been ordered to report cases of unknown fever and pneumonia since late last year after human bird flu was found in China.

Local experts said that no swine flu vaccine for humans is available yet and the possible use of medicines designed for ordinary flu or bird flu are still under discussion.

At Shanghai Pudong International Airport, immigration police have stepped up observations of air travelers, especially those coming in from North America and other areas reporting human cases of swine flu.

Authorities said they will immediately turn over anyone with flu symptoms to quarantine authorities for further examination.

To prevent possible channels of contamination, disinfectants and hand-wash liquids have been distributed to front-line immigration officers who have extensive contact with travelers.

The city's other airport, Hongqiao International Airport, serves only a small number of international flights to Japan and South Korea daily, but it has launched similar precautions.

In addition, the Shanghai Entry Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau said it is enhancing inspections of bags carried by tourists coming in from affected areas.

The Shanghai Tourism Administration has alerted travelers to the flu threat but has received no report that any local tourist has contracted swine flu overseas.

It reminds tourists who have been to epidemic areas that they should contact the entry-exit bureau if they encounter flu symptoms within two weeks of their return.


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