/ 3 May 2008

Deadly virus spreads to southern China

A rapidly spreading virus that has already killed 22 children in eastern China has killed an 18-month-old boy in southern China’s Guangdong province, the official Xinhua news agency said on Saturday.

The boy died in Guangdong’s Foshan city from a suspected case of hand, foot and mouth disease, which was probably caused by the enterovirus 71, or EV71, Xinhua quoted provincial disease control authorities as saying.

A mass outbreak of the intestinal virus has been spreading in Fuyang city in the eastern province of Anhui since early March.

Xinhua did not say whether authorities believed EV71 had spread from Anhui to Guangdong. Official media reported earlier that the virus had spread from Anhui to the neighbouring province of Henan.

The World Health Organisation said that the number of hospitalised cases has gradually increased since the end of March with a sharp increase in cases since April 19. It said 1 884 cases had been reported since April 29.

Many countries in the Western Pacific have implemented heightened surveillance for hand, foot and mouth disease, WHO said.

There is no vaccine or antiviral agent available to treat or prevent EV71.

Enteroviruses spread mostly through contact with infected blisters or faeces and can cause high fever, paralysis and swelling of the brain. – Reuters