The World Health Organization (WHO) representative to China, Hans Troedsson, on Wednesday endorsed China's measures to control hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), stressing that the measures were appropriate and positive.
"The WHO had several discussions and meetings with the Chinese health authorities to discuss actions to be taken," he told a press conference held jointly with the Ministry of Health.
"The actions include raising disease awareness of the public and health workers and strengthening disease surveillance such as listing it as a notifiable disease, as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand have done."
Troedsson said: "It is remarkable how the Chinese health authorities have been strengthening the health care services capacity, which is important to the patients.
"They also enhanced public health education and public health messages, so that people know how to protect themselves, prevent the disease and how to recognize the disease," he said.
Troedsson had just returned from a visit to Hangzhou, in the eastern province of Zhejiang. There he visited a primary school and saw children receive health lessons. He told reporters that when he asked the children why they needed to wash their hands, a 9-year-old boy raised his hand and said: "To prevent EV71."
"This is a good example of how both the central and local level health departments have managed to prevent the disease," Troedsson said.
Troedsson said the initial outbreak of the HFMD in China was delayed in being reported because some of the early cases did not involve the typical symptoms. At first, physicians suspected the cases were severe pneumonia.
Subsequently, when they tried to link the cases to HFMD by testing for EV71, they found the result was positive and immediately reported to the WHO, he said.
Troedsson noted that EV71 was not easily diagnosed, since "if you don't clearly know what disease is in front of you, you might not identify and test for the exact kind of virus. When I was a physician in Sweden, we also spent several weeks and even months to test for and find the virus," he said.
He reiterated that "the Chinese government's measures are appropriate" and "we have had many exchanges of information."
Troedsson revealed that the WHO is discussing with the Chinese health authorities the idea of sharing experience from other countries and the WHO will support China with specific expertise for specific issues.
He also said people of all ages might be affected by the disease but there had only been a few adult cases, and he believed that the disease would not affect the 2008 Olympics. "Personally, I don't think that the disease will affect the Olympics since no fatal cases have been discovered in Beijing," he told reporters after the conference.
(Xinhua News Agency May 8, 2008)