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September 12, 2009

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Little optimism as H1N1 moves across China

SWINE flu is spreading from China's cities into its rural areas and from the coast to inland regions, a health ministry official said yesterday.

Incidents of large-scale group infections are also replacing isolated ones, said Liang Wannian, deputy director of the Health Ministry's emergency office.

The Chinese mainland reported 6,968 cases of swine flu as of Thursday, with all 31 provinces and autonomous regions having infections. There have been no deaths.

Liang said the virus is spreading at a faster pace because of the arrival of autumn and the start of school terms, with more than 100 cases reported every day.

"The situation we face in controlling the virus is not optimistic," Liang told a news conference in Beijing.

Domestic transmission of the virus has also surpassed cases caught from overseas, making up 94.8 percent of new infections, he said. The number of domestic cases increased by 3,696 from August 24 to Thursday, he said.

The State Council issued an order on Thursday stepping up the campaign against the H1N1 virus. The Chinese Cabinet promised measures such as free vaccination and flexible work hours.

Under the order, the health ministry is busy preparing for epidemic prevention and control during coming National Day celebrations that begin on October 1, Liang said.

Liao Wenke, a senior official with the Ministry of Education, said preschool facilities and schools were required to be fully prepared to deal with the swine flu virus.

They are required to educate every student about how to prevent infection, and teachers have been asked to update student health information every day, Liao said.

"Schools are to avoid big gatherings, especially indoors," he said.

They will also prepare quarantine facilities for flu patients and those having close contact with them, he said.


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