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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 February, 2005, 07:37 GMT
China battles meningitis outbreak
Chinese parents send their children to be inoculated against meningitis at a hospital in Wuhu, 29 January 2005
Anhui, where many people have died, is facing a shortage of vaccine
China has issued emergency orders to try and stem a meningitis outbreak that has killed at least 16 people and infected 258 in the last month.

Local authorities were ordered to report cases promptly, keep public places clean, and prepare enough vaccines, Xinhua news agency said.

China has a relatively high rate of the disease compared to industrialised countries.

Meningitis is an acute infectious disease which can prove fatal.

It is characterised by severe headache, fever and rash, and is spread by poor hygiene, coughing and sneezing.

Correspondents say China's unusually prompt and sweeping orders reflect a new sensitivity to public health following the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) in the country in 2003, when Beijing was criticised for a slow response.

The number of reported cases of meningitis in January was 94 more than over the same period last year, Xinhua said.

Eight of the deaths occurred in central Anhui province, but state media said cases had been reported in all regions of China except for Tibet, the island of Hainan and southern Fujian province.

The Ministry of Health warned the public that infectious diseases spread more easily during Chinese New Year, which starts next week, when thousands of people travel round the country to visit their families.

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22 Jan 04 |  Medical notes
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