Authorities in southern China have uncovered another illegal blood scheme, state media said Wednesday, days after health officials said almost 5,000 blood banks were shut last year.
As China continues its fight to clean up blood banks around the country, the China Daily reported that a new case had emerged in Guangzhou, the booming capital of Guangdong province.
A security guard working at the city's blood centre had been fired on suspicion he was involved in the illegal blood ring, the China Daily said, citing a local paper.
The report came after a senior health ministry official warned there were still major problems in the nation's blood bank industry, more than a decade after tainted transfusions helped trigger an AIDS crisis.
Vice health minister Ma Xiaowei said 4,915 blood banks were closed last year for violating collection regulations, according to a report by the official Xinhua news agency last week.
Ma also reported 280 cases of illegal blood deals.
The blood dealing scheme in Guangzhou involved selling platelets, which are cells in the blood needed for normal clotting, to seriously ill people in need of transfusions, according to the China Daily.
The security guard who was fired had allegedly acted as a middleman between ill patients and the boss of an illegal blood-selling gang. The blood bank was facing a shortage of platelets.
The Ministry of Health launched a campaign against illegal blood deals in 2005 amid an AIDS crisis that was partly caused by government-sponsored blood schemes.
Thousands of people, most of them uneducated peasants, were infected mainly in Henan province during the 1990s through tainted blood transfusions at illegal blood collection stations.
An estimated 700,000 people in China are currently living with HIV, according to information compiled by the government and the United Nations.