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The Chinese Fight as One Against SARS

       China's ongoing war on the furious attack of the SARS(severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic is a battle without gun smoke.
       The sudden disaster has subjected China's new central leadership and the masses of Chinese people to severe tests. Under the firm leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, the Chinese people have pulled together in an arduous and tenacious war on this fatal disease.

       The People's Interests Take First Place
       At 10 a.m., April 14, CPC Central Committee General Secretary Hu Jintao came to the Beijing Road in downtown Guangzhou. His arrival at the frontline of the battle against SARS greatly inspired the local residents and enhanced their confidence in the combat. During his inspection tour in Guangdong, Hu also visited medical workers at the Guangdong Disease Prevention and Control Center. He said, "The Party Central Committee and the State Council are greatly concerned about the epidemic situation. We are very much worried as the health and lives of many people face a serious threat. At the same time, we are relieved to learn that many patients have recovered, thanks to the arduous and meticulous work of countless medical workers."
       On April 20, General Secretary Hu visited the Microorganism and Epidemic Research Institute under the Military Medical Institute and the Beijing Genome Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, extending his heartfelt gratitude and cordial greetings to the scientists who had achieved major successes in tackling key scientific problems related to SARS. He encouraged them to make persistent efforts to overcome the epidemic by scientific means.
       On May 1, Hu went to Tianjin to inspect the city's epidemic prevention and control work.
       After the outbreak of the SARS epidemic in Beijing, Premier Wen Jiabao visited the National Disease Prevention and Control Center, Beijing You'an Hospital, and some universities, primary and middle schools, kindergartens, construction sites, supermarkets and communities to inspect their epidemic precautions, extend his regards to medical workers and inquire about the health of teachers and students. He stated, "A responsible government must always place the interests of the people first."
       Later, the premier inspected the epidemic prevention and control work in Guangdong, Yunnan and Shanxi.
       The CPC Central Committee and the State Council, attaching great importance to the SARS epidemic, have convened special meetings on many occasions and put forth a series of counter-measures.
       On April 17, the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee held a meeting to listen to relevant departments' reports on the epidemic prevention and control work and make further studies and arrangements for improving the work. Attendants stressed that doing a good job in preventing and controlling the epidemic concerns the health and lives of numerous people, and also the country's overall situation of reform, development and stability.
       Immediately after it assumed office, the new government dedicated itself to prevention and control of the SARS epidemic. In less than a month, it held four executive meetings, with three specializing on the epidemic prevention and control work. Decisions were made to include SARS in the list of officially designated infectious diseases that are subject to government management in accordance with the law, to keep the World Health Organization (WHO) and the general public informed about the epidemic situation every day, and to establish a mechanism to cope with sudden public health problems. The executive meeting held by the State Council on April 23 decided to establish the State Council SARS Prevention and Control Headquarters, and to allocate 2 billion yuan from the state treasury for the prevention and control of SARS. A series of measures have been taken to combat the epidemic, from organizational leadership and work mechanism to epidemic prevention and treatment methods and publicity.
       The Party Central Committee and the State Council have paid close attention to the epidemic situation, calling on relevant departments to take a responsible attitude toward the people and timely discover, report and release information about the epidemic situation. Leaders responsible for delaying or failing to report or covering up facts will be held to account. Given the problems that had occurred previously in the epidemic prevention and control work, the central authorities firmly removed the minister of health and the mayor of Beijing from their leading posts, and sent epidemic inspection teams to some localities.
       Lining Up Defense Against SARS
       Facing the spread of the SARS epidemic, Party committees and governments at all levels have further defined their responsibilities, established a scientific precaution system, and adopted active and effective measures to prevent and control the epidemic.
       Shanghai acted promptly by setting up a mechanism to deal with sudden public health problems, relying on the city's disease prevention and control center and third-grade medicare and disease prevention networks. In addition, it has worked out plans to prevent and control the SARS epidemic, specified emergency plans for preventing and controlling the epidemic among special groups of people, published a guidebook on SARS prevention and control, and developed appropriate diagnostic and treatment measures. The city has also intensified the training of medical workers, and established two consultant groups composed of 20 molecular virus specialists and 10 famous doctors of traditional Chinese medicine. Special laboratories operating round the clock have been set up.
       During the critical fight against SARS, Beijing established an intensive epidemic situation monitoring system, a smooth information gathering system and a strict epidemic prevention and control system. The municipal anti-SARS task force collects epidemic-monitoring reports from all urban districts and suburban counties at all times. Epidemic specialists sort out information gathered from various channels promptly. A total of 16 hospitals have been designated as special hospitals to treat SARS patients. Various hospitals have intensified consultation of doctors and pulled efforts to rescue critically ill patients. Some districts and counties have established medical institutions to isolate and observe people who have had close contact with SARS patients.
       On April 28, after seven days of hard work, the 1,000-bed Beijing Xiaotangshan Hospital for SARS patients was completed. By May 5, all the 1,200 medical workers sent by the army had arrived at their posts in three groups.
       The focus of SARS precaution has been laid on universities, primary and middle schools, kindergartens, public traffic facilities, shops and other public places attracting large crowds Of people. In an emergency circular, the Ministry of Education called on all institutions of higher education to enhance the awareness of epidemic precaution and self-protection among teachers and students, regularly disinfect students' dormitories, canteens, classrooms, libraries and laboratories, and ensure good ventilation of these places. Each student is provided with a thermometer, and those who are found to have a high fever will be kept under close observation. The Civil Aviation Administration of China issued a circular, requiring all passengers to fill out a detailed health form before boarding. Passengers suspected of having contracted SARS will be persuaded to stop traveling. Railway and transport and communication sectors have also adopted emergency measures to isolate SARS patients and those who are suspected of having contracted the disease.
       Guangdong Province, where the first SARS case was identified, has launched a campaign to publicize the methods to ward off SARS, together with a public fitness campaign and a patriotic health campaign. More than 8,000 citizens have been mobilized to clean their houses, streets, open public facilities and all formerly neglected spots. The effort has ushered in an upsurge of the epidemic prevention and control work.
       Braving the Deadly Disease
       "Doctors combating the epidemic are like soldiers going to war, and good soldiers are always in the vanguard," said a doctor's wife when commenting on her husband's work.
       During this smokeless battle, Chinese medical workers, who are ready to give their lives in times of danger, have demonstrated their exceptional courage and fine professional ethics. They have added a stirring chapter to the annals of "healing the wounded and rescuing the dying".
       People will remember these selfless and dauntless medical workers forever.
       "It's too dangerous, let me do it." These words became the pet phase of Ye Xin, head nurse with the Guangdong Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, when nursing SARS patients. She later contracted the disease and died at her post. But, no sooner had she fallen, than numerous other medical workers threw themselves into the breach.
       As SARS is new to China and the world at large, there is no experience in prevention and treatment to refer to. The Second Medical College attached to the Zhongshan University in Guangzhou has established an expert group to combat SARS. Prof. Chen Weixian, a member of the group, put forward the bold idea of dividing patients into three groups and treating them with different methods--a way to compare the results of different treatment approaches and find out the most effective method. The experience helped produce an ideal method of treatment and, later, standards for treatment and management.
       Based on the concerted efforts of numerous medical workers in tackling key problems, Chinese medical specialists have put forward the principle of "early discovery, early diagnosis, early isolation and early treatment" to prevent and control the SARS epidemic, and developed a set of appropriate methods of treatment. As a result, many critically ill patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital. The cure rate of Guangdong Province has reached 85 percent.
       WHO experts commented that China has accumulated many valuable experiences in preventing and controlling SARS and found out a set of effective methods to control the epidemic and treat patients, which other countries may refer to.
       Using Science to Defeat SARS
       "Speed is everything," wrote Dr. Wang Jian with the Beijing Genome Research Institute in his diary. His words have expressed the conviction of all his colleagues.
       After the outbreak of SARS, Chinese scientists acted promptly in response to the counter-measures adopted by the central authorities as well as the needs of the patients and the general public. With a high sense of responsibility and a rigorous scientific approach, they have worked day and night to tackle key problems and achieved major results.
       On April 12, the Guangzhou team engaged in the study of pneumonia epidemiology, pathology and clinic treatment isolated the coronavirus from two samples taken from SARS patients, showing that a mutation of the coronavirus might be the cause of SARS.
       On April 14, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Science and Technology allocated 10 million yuan to the science and technology emergency act for prevention and control of SARS.
       On April 16, the Molecular Epidemic Research Institute under the Military Medical Institute and the Beijing Genome Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences succeeded in sequencing the coronavirus gene.
       On April 17, the Medical and Bioengineering Technology Research Center under the Ministry of Health reported that together with the Guangzhou Disease Prevention and Control Center it had succeeded in developing the PCR technology for fast testing of the coronavirus.
       On April 19, the Military Medical Institute and the Chinese Academy of Sciences developed a new technology that helps quickly diagnose the SARS virus in one hour...
       Prof. Yang Huanming, head of the Beijing Genome Research Institute, said that the completion of coronavirus gene sequencing and the development of the PCR testing technology in such a short period of time should be attributed to the cross-disciplinary and inter-departmental coordination and the selfless dedication of scientists involved in these projects.
       The SARS epidemic is ferocious. However, mankind has never given up the endeavor to fight against disease. We believe every new scientific discovery will move mankind a step further from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom. Mankind is bound to overcome SARS and eventually win the war on it.

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