China will build its second Africa-based overseas surveillance center for epidemic diseases in Zambia as part of efforts to prevent infectious disease entering China, the top quality watchdog said on Feb 7.
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine is looking to establish the center at the China-Zambia Friendship Hospital under the State-owned China Nonferrous Metal Mining Group to intensify disease prevention and control at the border, said Song Yueqian, deputy head of supervision of health quarantine, said at a conference.
“After a preliminary study, we found the hospital met the requirements for becoming an overseas sentinel surveillance center, and we will initiate talks with company executives to build the center as soon as possible,” Song said.
The country built its first overseas surveillance center at a hospital under the China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group in Angola in 2016 after a yellow fever outbreak engulfed the African country.
Li Xin, an expert on infectious diseases at Beijing Ditan Hospital, said the establishment of these centers in African countries, where there are frequent outbreaks of epidemics, has a positive effect on global epidemic disease prevention and control.
“These centers can obtain firsthand materials on diseases, offer quick responses to outbreaks and prevent them from entering China,” Li said.
As more Chinese companies accelerate overseas expansion and build subsidiaries in economies along the Belt and Road Initiative, intensifying overseas surveillance of infectious diseases will become more important, he said.
There are around 40,000 Chinese nationals living in Zambia, according to the administration.
An eight-member Chinese medical team has been sent by the administration to Zambia to combat an ongoing cholera outbreak in the country, said Song, who is also the head of the team.
“The team arrived in Zambia on Jan 20 and returned to Beijing on Feb 6. We have vaccinated 4,844 Chinese nationals working in the country,” Song said.
“We have conducted education campaigns on cholera prevention and control for Chinese nationals in Zambia, which has effectively relieved their fear of the disease,” he added.
“We brought 20,000 cholera vaccines with us. More than 12,000 people signed up for vaccination at the beginning, yet only less than 5,000 were vaccinated after they had more knowledge of the disease,” Song said.
Cholera is a bacterial disease transmitted through food and water that causes severe diarrhea and can be deadly if untreated.