China confirmed Thursday that no major disease outbreaks had been reported in the earthquake zone but said it was launching a battle against epidemics.
"Our work is just starting," said Vice Health Minister Gao Qiang after announcing that 10,000 trained medical personnel were working in areas worst-hit by Monday's 7.9 magnitude quake in southwestern Sichuan province.
"Our medical personnel on the ground have already reported that no major outbreaks of epidemics have occurred in the quake affected areas," Gao told a press conference.
"We would be failing our country and our people if we allowed epidemics to add to the woes of people already hit by disaster."
Epidemics often break out in areas affected by earthquakes and other natural disasters due to contaminated water and unsanitary conditions.
But Gao said that China had developed high-level skills in dealing with potential epidemics because it had accumulated knowledge while facing a series of disasters in the past.
However he admitted that outbreaks were likely if medical personnel failed to carry out their jobs properly.
"We have made meticulous arrangements for epidemic control and health work in the affected areas including dispatching a large number of qualified personnel," he said.
"If we are to attain the goal of no major outbreaks, the key lies in our work ahead."
He said the main tasks included sterilising drinking water supplies, disinfecting contaminated areas as well as vaccinating residents against diseases and isolating those already infected.