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Beijing Officials Urge Residents Get Flu Vaccinations - 2003-09-10

Officials in China, bracing for a possible recurrence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, are urging the people of the capital to be vaccinated against influenza.

The Beijing local government announced Tuesday that more than 400 stations are being set up to deliver influenza vaccines across the city later this month, in advance of what is normally flu season.

The announcement, published in a government newspaper, came a day after officials in Singapore confirmed one new case of SARS.

Chinese officials say they are very concerned about the Singapore case and are monitoring the situation in their own country very closely. Months after the last new case of the disease appeared in China, health workers are still being required to submit reports on SARS cases, even if the number reported is zero.

Government spokesman Kong Quan says authorities are preparing to control a second appearance of the disease, should it happen in China. With SARS being a very dangerous infectious disease, he said, Chinese medical institutions are working to devise various preventive measures to avoid a second outbreak of the disease.

While there is no vaccine against SARS, Chinese health officials believe that a flu vaccination campaign will help them monitor possible SARS cases because, along with the shots, health workers will distribute information on the symptoms of the disease. The information will include instructions on what patients should do if they believe they are sick.

Officials are promising to release information immediately on any possible new SARS cases that might appear.

The measures are a departure from the Chinese government's approach last year, when officials for months failed to report the initial appearance of SARS in the southern part of the country, and then tried to cover up the true extent of the outbreak.

The government's slow reaction has been blamed for the disease's quick and devastating spread. Worldwide, almost 8,500 people were infected and more than 900 died, most of them in China.