More Kindergartens Close In China, Viral Cases Near 20,000

By Tham Choy Lin, Bernama,

Beijing : More kindergartens were closed as China continues to battle a virus that has killed 28 children and infected close to 20,000 with the normally mild hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).

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The number of cases had increased significantly over the past few days since HFMD was declared a notifiable disease by the Health Ministry last week.

The number of cases grew to 19,962 on Wednesday from 15,799 the day before, Xinhua News Agency said.

With the approaching Olympic Games in August, Premier Wen Jiabao has directed health authorities to go “all-out” to curb the spread of the disease, Xinhua said.

As of last week, nearly 1,500 infections were detected in Beijing and two kindergartens were closed.

HFMD, which emerges regularly in summer, has spread to half of China’s provinces and regions, China Daily reported, saying the disease has hit 16 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.

Xinhua said all kindergartens in a county in northern Inner Mongolia were closed and primary schools were required to carry out morning checks on pupils for signs of HFMD, which is marked by blisters and rashes on the hand and feet and mouth sores.

As of Wednesday, the death toll was 28 and no new fatalities were reported over the past week in worst-hit Fuyang city in eastern Anhui province where 22 had died since the outbreak began in early March.

Anhui has a total of 6,545 cases so far and 104 children remain in critical condition while 3,166 have been discharged from hospital.

World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in China Dr Hans Troedsson had said the enterovirus 71 (EV 71) responsible for almost all the deaths had not mutated but the WHO would investigate the rare cluster of deaths in Fuyang.

All the fatalities were children below five, the majority under two, and they had breathing difficulties, he told a joint news conference with China’s Health Ministry.

The Health Ministry had warned that the infections will continue to spike up as the peak season for the disease was in June and July.