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Viral Epidemic Maintains Grip in China, with 3 More Deaths

Hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD), the intestinal viral disease rampant among children, has continued to spread in China, with the national death toll now standing at 42.

Beijing's health authority on Wednesday confirmed that two children had died of HFMD in the capital. They were the first HFMD deaths ever reported in Beijing.

Deng Xiaohong, spokeswoman of the Beijing Health Department, said that the two victims were from Chaoyang District and Hebei Province, a neighbor of Beijing.

The child from Chaoyang died on the way to a hospital on Sunday. The other child was transferred to Beijing for further medical treatment from Hebei after the illness worsened. It was not immediately known when the child was transferred or when that death occurred.

"Under the regulations of the Ministry of Health, the child from Hebei should not be included in Beijing's HFMD death toll," said Deng.

She declined to provide further details about the two children.

There were 3,606 HFMD infections in the national capital as of Monday.

Meanwhile, the Hubei Provincial Health Department has confirmed that a 21-month-old boy from Chibi City in Hubei had died of HFMD on Monday.

The boy, surnamed Xie, checked in at a local village clinic for a fever on May 10 and was soon transferred to a township hospital where he was diagnosed as a suspected HFMD case. He was moved to Pufang Hospital in Chibi City, which has been designated as the facility for treatment of HFMD patients, on Monday.

Xie died at 8:00 PM on Monday during surgery after showing symptoms including respiratory and circulatory failure. Lab work by the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed the boy died of HFMD triggered by the enterovirus 71, also known as EV71.

The Hubei Provincial Health Department said as of midnight on Tuesday, there were 3,176 cases of HFMD infection province-wide, including 1,494 children who were treated and discharged from hospitals, and one death.

According to the Guidelines Regarding Prevention and Control of HFMD published on the Ministry of Health website, HFMD can be caused by a host of intestinal viruses, but EV71 and the Coxsackievirus (Cox A16) were the most common.

HFMD usually starts with a slight fever followed by blisters and ulcers in the mouth and rashes on the hands and feet.

Those sickened by EV71 often show serious symptoms. It can also lead to meningitis, encephalitis, pulmonary edema and paralysis in some children. There is no vaccine.

HFMD has sickened more than 24,934 children on the Chinese mainland, of whom 42 have died. The deaths have occurred in Anhui, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Hunan, Zhejiang, Beijing and Hubei.

(Xinhua News Agency May 14, 2008)

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