No danger of disease outbreak in Kashmir quake zone

Despite earlier fears, the top medical officer in Pakistan's army said Monday there is no danger of an outbreak of disease in areas hit by a massive earthquake two months ago. Maj. Gen. Abdul Malik, the head of the army's medical relief operations, said Pakistan is grateful to international aid agencies for helping the country in its time of need, and said the help may have warded off bigger problems.

"They came here in a big way and their technical support and encouragement helped a lot to mitigate the problems of the survivors, especially in the health sector," he said. Sardar Mahmood, who is the top health official in Muzaffarabad, said about half a million children have been vaccinated for measles, polio, tetanus and other diseases.

He said there has been no outbreak of pneumonia anywhere in Kashmir. "Some patients with pneumonia were received at hospitals in Kashmir and only one or two died and others recovered," he said. On Sunday, World Health Organization Director-General Jong-wook Lee toured the area to inspect health facilities ahead of the onset of the brutal Himalayan winter.

WHO, the U.N.'s health agency, has promised to stay in Pakistan to help revive the shattered health system in the country's northwest and in Kashmir, which bore the worst of the Oct. 8 earthquake.

The WHO chief, who is in Pakistan, was expected on Monday to meet with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. Officials say the quake destroyed 50 percent of the health system in northwest Pakistan and Pakistan-held Kashmir, along with killing about 87,000 people and leaving millions homeless.

WHO has helped immunize 400,000 children in the area against measles. Muzaffarabad is the capital of the Pakistan-controlled portion of Kashmir, a Himalayan territory which is also claimed by India. A cease-fire line divides Kashmir between the two rival countries, reports the AP. I.L.

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