Authorities in eastern China covered up an outbreak of cholera for 12 days out of fears that publicizing the often fatal disease would shock the local population, state press said yesterday.
According to the Anhui Province health department’s Web site, 38 people have contracted cholera since Aug. 16 and the outbreak was under preliminary control with the numbers of cases diminishing.
Five patients remain hospitalized, it said.
Cholera causes serious diarrhoea and vomiting, leading to dehydration, and can be fatal if not treated quickly. It normally breaks out in impoverished regions with poor sanitation.
Although health authorities have not reported any deaths, Internet chatrooms were abuzz with rumors that several people have died from the disease.
At the same time state media criticized the government for covering up the epidemic and refusing to alert the local population.
“On August 16, the Anhui centre for disease control had confirmed the outbreak of cholera, but it was not until August 28 that it was publicized,” the Beijing News said in an editorial. “The government covered up the outbreak for 12 days.”
The paper quoted Wang Jianjun (王建軍), the vice director of the Anhui Center for Disease Control as saying that local officials were powerless to publicize disease outbreaks and had to wait for approval from more senior officials.
“Besides, if every outbreak of disease is publicized every time, this will easily lead the public to become paralyzed in their thinking,” the report cited him as saying without elaboration.
The cholera outbreak has been traced to soybean milk shop in Mengcheng city.
Poor sanitation and a lax food safety regime have repeatedly led to health scares in China.
Last week, 87 children were hospitalized after eating tainted yogurt at a kindergarten in Gansu Province, state media reported on Saturday.
A cooking oil company in central China also admitted last week it had waited five months before notifying the public that one of its products had been found to contain excessive carcinogens.
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