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August 7, 2009

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Locals not escaping plague area - officials

LOCAL officials coping with pneumonic plague control in northwest China's Qinghai Province yesterday denied recent foreign media reports about people escaping from the plague-hit area on foot.

AFP on Wednesday quoted a businessman who works in Ziketan Township as saying, "Some of my hometown folks left, they are afraid of pneumonic plague." The same day, AP reported that two residents said a lot of people (from the town) "ran off last night."

After 12 patients in Ziketan Township of Xinghai County in Qinghai's Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture were quarantined on July 31, the local government sealed off 3,500 square kilometers centered around Ziketan Township, with a population of 10,000, and established 23 quarantine stations.

No other infections were found except for the 12, three of whom died and one who was in critical condition on Wednesday, according to Dong Fukui, deputy chief of the Hainan prefecture that administers Ziketan.

More than 140 epidemic-prevention professionals from the Ministry of Health and provincial-level institutions are working in the area to control the deadly disease.

Dong said efforts have been intensified to improve awareness of the plague.

Authorities publish the status of the plague every day and more than 40,000 brochures and leaflets on the plague have been distributed in the area.

Specialists said the measures taken to stop the plague spreading have been effective.

"Supplies in the area are guaranteed. It is not necessary for the locals to escape," Dong said.

Qin Jianxin, deputy head of the public security bureau of Xinghai County who is in charge of the quarantine station nearest to the county, said quarantine vehicles patrol the area round the clock.

"This is the last pass and the only way toward the epidemic center," Qin said. "We've seen no local residents come out of the center."

Officials think the source of the pneumonic plague was a dog owned by the first victim, a 32-year-old herdsman. The dog died after contracting the plague from an ill wild marmot.

Wang Hu, head of the Qinghai provincial center for disease control and prevention, said the herdsman contracted the plague when he was bitten by a flea on the dog while burying the animal.


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