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China Ready for Swine Flu

  • Stephanie Ho

China's top officials say they are ready to combat swine flu, if the illness shows up in the country. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

Chinese Health Minister Chen Zhu urged basic hygiene as an effective first line of defense against swine flu.

Chen urged people to cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when they cough or sneeze. He said people also should not spit and should put what he described as "any mouth secretions" into a tissue that is thrown away in a garbage pail with a lid.

Chinese authorities have not yet found a case of swine flu in the country - in either a human or a pig.

Chen says if a human case is found, Chinese authorities will report it in a timely manner, quarantine the patient and give treatment, according to plans and according to China's laws and regulations.

He told reporters in Beijing Thursday that China is working on developing a swine flu vaccination. He says the Chinese government has already submitted a request to the World Health Organization to acquire strains of the virus, from areas that have already been affected.

Meanwhile, China's Vice Agriculture Minister Gao Hongbin had strong criticism for the name of the illness, swine flu, which implies that pigs are somehow to blame.

Gao says China is a big producer and consumer of pork, and that, despite misconceptions, pork is still safe to eat.

He says the government pays close attention to and cares strongly about anything related to pig production because it is closely linked to the national economy and to people's livelihoods.

The Chinese official urged that the official name of the disease be changed. He pointed to three different possibilities - a U.S. government decision to refer to the disease as the H1N1 flu, the European Union's decision to refer to it simply as a "novel flu," and the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health's reference to it as the "North American flu."

The emerging H1N1 virus strain is a mixture of genetic material from other swine, bird and human flu strains.

Whatever is decided, Gao says the name should at least stop laying the blame solely on pigs.

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