The U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt says the United States is helping China work to prevent the outbreak of infectious diseases following this week's massive earthquake. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.
Secretary Leavitt is in China to discuss food and drug safety. The topic has recently been pushed to the forefront because of reports that tainted ingredients from China, used in the blood thinning drug heparin, led to the deaths of dozens of people in the United States and other countries.
Since Monday's earthquake, though, the secretary said Chinese officials he met with in Beijing and Shanghai this week had other, more urgent, things they wanted to discuss.
"I met with the Minister of Science and Technology today," said Leavitt. "He asked for some advice from people within our department on how to contain infectious disease, during the period following this kind of natural disaster. When the systems break down, infectious disease is one of the concerns that we all have."
Leavitt said as the days pass after a disaster, local epidemics become increasing problems. He said the Chinese were especially interested in hearing how the U.S. government fought infectious diseases following Hurricane Katrina.
"We assembled the experts who have significant experience in that area, and this afternoon, we began the process of those consultations," Leavitt said.
The U.S. official praised the Chinese government's response to the disaster, saying it is clear to him that Beijing has mobilized all of its available resources.
On the issue of the tainted heparin, Leavitt said both U.S. and Chinese scientists agree that the questionable samples were contaminated. He said there is less agreement, though, on whether the adulterated elements actually caused the deaths.