Infectious diseases are emerging as a major threat in China's quake zone, with injured and traumatised victims most at risk, the health minister was quoted as saying Wednesday.
As summer approaches, the warmer weather creates optimal conditions for epidemics, with survivors of the massive May 12 quake particularly vulnerable to disease, the China Daily reported, citing Health Minister Chen Zhu.
"Simply experiencing such a huge trauma weakens people's immune systems. For those in more vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and children, the risk of infection is even greater," Chen said, according to the paper.
Although no major disease outbreak has occurred, the paper warned that health workers were facing an "uphill battle," with medical services in the quake zone taking a serious hit.
"We are trying our best to meet the health service demands and restore proper facilities as soon as possible," Chen said, according to the paper.
Earlier this month, Health Ministry spokesman Mao Qunan said there would be no epidemics in an online discussion on www.gov.cn.
"We have the ability and the confidence to guarantee that after the disaster, there will be no epidemics," the spokesman said.
Given the large loss of manpower, medical workers from other parts of the country will be deployed to help those in the quake area, he said.
In the first 10 days of June, more than half a million children under the age of 12 in quake-affected areas were vaccinated against infections, such as hepatitis A and encephalitis B, the paper said.
The death toll from the Sichuan earthquake, the worst natural disaster to hit China in three decades, had reached 69,172 on Tuesday, the government said. Another 17,420 people were still missing.