Virus outbreak claims lives of 20 young children in China – UN health agency

2 May 2008

Twenty infants and young children have died in eastern China in an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) caused by enterovirus infection and the number of cases may still not peak for another two months, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reports.

Twenty infants and young children have died in eastern China in an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) caused by enterovirus infection and the number of cases may still not peak for another two months, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reports.

All 20 deaths occurred in the city of Fuyang in Anhui province, WHO said in an update released yesterday, with a total of 1,884 cases of enterovirus (EV-71) infection reported as of Tuesday.

WHO said Chinese authorities have introduced a series of measures, including enhanced monitoring of drinking water quality, increased training of health-care workers and greater surveillance, to try to curtail the spread of the outbreak.

The authorities are also keeping the UN agency and health officials in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Province of Taiwan informed of test results, which last week confirmed that EV-71 is the cause of the outbreak.

Cases started to emerge in early March but the number of people hospitalized has jumped since 19 April, WHO said, and public health experts have predicted the number of cases will not peak until June-July.

Non-polio enteroviruses are common worldwide, with young children most susceptible to infection and no vaccine currently available. The virus is contagious and can be transmitted through direct contact with the mucus, saliva or faeces of an infected person.

 

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