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Unqualified clinic blamed for Hep C crisis in S. China

By Yang Jinghao (Global Times)

08:58, February 24, 2012

An outbreak of Hepatitis C hit Zijin county, Guangdong Province recently, sparking panic among locals who blame the incident on an unqualified clinic, highlighting loopholes in the management of grass-roots medical facilities.

Over 200 residents in the county have been diagnosed with Hepatitis C since last October, and most of them live around Xiangshuilu in Zicheng township, media reports said Thursday.

A man from the township surnamed Luo, whose mother and 17-year-old daughter were infected, confirmed the incident with the Global Times, saying the total number is far more than has been reported.

"We suspect the origin of the outbreak was from a private clinic, as almost all sufferers had received injections there, including my two family members. The syringes used there were the old-fashioned ones made of glass that might not have been properly disinfected," Luo said.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, some locals accused the clinic of reusing needles.

The Zijin county government said in a press release Thursday that a special zone for Hepatitis C patients had been set up in the People's Hospital of Zijin and that those who had been using interferons, a type of antiviral agent, for treatment since 2011 will receive compensation.

An official with the Department of Health of Guangdong (DHG), who requested anonymity, downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak.

"Many still need further diagnosis, and the cases have accumulated over the years," she said, adding that experts from the CDC at both national and provincial level have started a joint investigation to determine the cause.

In a statement Thursday, the DHG put the number of Hepatitis C infections in the county at 242 in the past three years, saying the rate is at the same level as the provincial average.

"The infection rate has increased in recent years, but the cause is still under investigation. So far we have ruled out blood sales, hemodialysis and drug-taking as causes," it said.

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