Monday, June 2, 2008

Stop to Foot and Mouth Disease

Chinese authorities have launched a nationwide public hygiene campaign in an effort to combat the spread of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), which has killed 42 children and infected at least 30,000 youngsters throughout Asia since the end of April. The disease, caused by an unusually virulent strain of the intestinal flu known as enterovirus 71 (EV71), so far has spread from Mongolia to Vietnam, including most parts of eastern China, and health officials warn that the situation could get worse as the disease usually peaks during the summer heat of June and July. Already, Mongolia has shut all kindergartens and primary schools as a result of the spreading outbreak.

The hardest hit areas in eastern China have been in Anhui Province, especially the city Fuyang, where 23 died, and even Beijing was not spared: two children, one a resident and one a visitor, died from the disease last week, whose symptoms include a mild fever, rash on the hands and feet and open sores in the mouth. In the most severe cases it can lead to a heart and lung infection (pulmonary edema) as well as inflammation of the brain lining (meningitis) or of the brain itself (encephalitis)—conditions that can result in paralysis or death.

Health officials here have ordered residents, schools and business to take steps designed to prevent the disease's spread, including sterilizing furniture and toys with alcohol wipes as well as keeping symptomatic children at home.

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