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September 12, 2009

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Syringe victim's fears eased

LI Yuzhen felt relieved after a second doctor reassured her that she was not infected after a syringe attack in Urumqi, capital of western China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

A doctor told her she had nothing to worry about after checking her syringe mark last week, Li said.

"But the mark became red and swollen only a couple of days later and I was wondering if I had contracted any virus," she told He Hong, head of the skin disease department of Urumqi General Hospital affiliated to Lanzhou Military Region.

He conducted a careful checkup and later made an example to show her the symptom was not a result of infection but of finger scratches.

"I can at last have a sound sleep," said Li, who breathed a sigh of relief after the doctor's counselling.

Li said she could not sleep for days for fears of virus infections even after the assurance from the first doctor.

Li is not alone. Many other victims are also worried about infections.

Alimuhan, a woman of the Kazak ethnic minority group, also went to the military hospital for counselling amid lingering fears of HIV infection.

She was relieved after a doctor told her the possibility of HIV infection could be ruled out.

"HIV infections have prerequisites: first the needle is contaminated with HIV virus; second the stabbing is deep," Wang Huilin, a skin doctor, told her.

The fears did not vanish easily even after medical experts ruled out the possibility that radioactive substances, anthrax or toxic chemicals were used in recent needle attacks.

By last Friday, the Urumqi government had confirmed 531 victims of syringe stabbings, 171 of whom showed obvious syringe marks. The majority of the victims were of the Han ethnic group.

Tens of thousands of angry residents in Urumqi took to the streets last week, protesting against needle attacks and demanding security guarantees.

Urumqi General Hospital also arranged for three psychological experts and opened four counselling hotlines to help ease victims' panic.

The hospital handed out local newspapers disclosing the sabotage of the needle attackers and brochures on infectious diseases prevention.

"We seek to make the residents know well the vicious intentions of the 'three forces' (of extremism, separatism and terrorism) and learn basic knowledge on infectious diseases to ease panic and anxiety as soon as possible," said Shen Kaijin, head of the hospital's emergency center.


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