July 11,2017--A parasitic disease plaguing many parts of the Tibet autonomous region will be controlled by the end of 2020, under a plan released by the regional government.
The disease - echinococcosis - is caused by a type of tiny tapeworm and infects people and animals such as dogs and foxes. It damages major organs such as the liver, lungs and brain and can be fatal.
It is found throughout Tibet, with about 49,900 people infected, accounting for 1.66 percent of the population, the highest rate in China, according to a survey by the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
The incidence is highest among herdsmen, at 3.66 percent, the survey found.
The disease places severe burdens on patients and their families and is a major reason for poverty in Tibet, the regional health commission said.
Under the plan, Tibet's regional government will intensify prevention and control efforts in the next three years, aiming to bring the incidence of the disease below 1 percent in at least 40 counties by 2020.
Efforts include improving health education and hygiene among the public, conducting disease screenings and providing more subsidies for medical treatment so patients' basic medical expenditures can be covered.
Meanwhile, the government will intensify its supervision of dogs - major carriers of the disease in Tibet. It will build shelters for strays and treat infected dogs until they are free of the disease.
Under the plan, the government will also improve public facilities to ensure a clean and safe water supply and promote pollution-free toilets.
Tibet faces many challenges in eliminating the disease, including poor health facilities, unhygienic conditions in most pasture areas and a lack of medical talent, the commission said.
"Prevention is key," said Dong Jiahong, a specialist in liver and gallbladder diseases at Beijing Tsinghua Changgung Hospital who provided free surgeries to patients in Ganzi, Sichuan province, in July.
"It is urgent to promote knowledge about how to prevent the disease, such as separating humans and livestock and paying more attention to personal hygiene in echinococcosis-epidemic regions," Dong said, adding that screening work and blood tests are also urgently needed.
Since last year, the hospital said it has received at least five patients, including three from Tibet, with terminal liver disease related to echinococcosis, and some have received liver transplants.