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China supports WHO's heightened flu response

CHINA yesterday promised to increase coordination among health agencies across the country, speed up vaccine production and enhance other efforts to stem the H1N1 outbreak after the World Health Organization raised its swine flu alert to its highest level.

The WHO on Thursday raised its pandemic alert from phase 5 to phase 6, formally declaring the spread of swine flu has become a global pandemic.

"As the objective for the current stage, we'll endeavor to decrease domestic cases, prevent community transmission, step up treatment of serious cases and cope with possible future changes of the epidemic," Mao Qun'an, a spokesman for the Health Ministry, told a new conference.

The Chinese mainland confirmed 17 new swine flu cases yesterday, bringing the total number to 143 in 13 provinces and municipalities.

Nearly half of the victims have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

Mao outlined concrete steps, including improving the joint prevention and control mechanism liking various regions and different levels, increasing the number of labs and designated hospitals nationwide, enhancing medical workers' diagnosis and treatment ability to avoid fatalities, increasing drug stockpiles and vaccination production, increasing public health awareness and winning public support.

Focus on care

WHO's Representative in China Hans Troedsson said at the same press conference that under phase 6, the WHO is encouraging governments to focus on caring for H1N1 patients instead of trying to contain the disease.

"Health systems should prepare to manage more cases in terms of volume and possible severity," Troedsson said.

Countries must enhance their public education campaigns to provide accurate and up-to-date information on swine flu, he said.

"They should talk about not just what the government is doing in this pandemic but also how people can protect themselves and others," he said.

Though Troedsson admitted the disease had been rapidly brought under control in China, he warned of a further increase in cases and a greater challenge ahead.

Also yesterday, 10 people tested positive for swine flu in Hong Kong, bringing the number of confirmed cases of the disease in the city to 73.

And Taiwan confirmed four new infections on Thursday, putting the island's total at 36. A health official said Taiwan has so far prevented a large-scale swine flu outbreak but is preparing for a possible spike in cases in cooler weather.


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