China warned Friday of possible outbreaks of rabies and anthrax in its earthquake zone as relief efforts turned toward preventing the threat of disease among stricken survivors.
"After the quake, our key concern is an epidemic of animal-to-human diseases," Li Jinxiang, head of the agriculture ministry's veterinary department, told reporters.
He said animal corpses could be a source of disease. Nearly 28,000 yaks and 13,000 sheep died as a result of the 6.9-magnitude quake in the northwestern province of Qinghai, he added, without specifying how they were killed.
Li said anthrax bacteria long stored in the soil may have been released due to the violence of the quake on April 14, potentially infecting animals. He called for authorities to speed up an anthrax immunisation programme.
Humans can also be contaminated with anthrax when exposed to diseased animals or to their tissue.
Rabies was also a concern after several reports of dogs biting journalists and rescue workers. Li said authorities were preparing to vaccinate all dogs in the area.
Rescue efforts in the northwestern province of Qinghai are winding down more than nine days after the quake killed at least 2,187 people and left another 80 missing, and the focus is now moving towards disease prevention.
Health officials had also previously warned of a potential outbreak of pneumonic plague, a lethal disease spread by marmots that may have been woken up early from their winter hibernation by the quake.