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. China virus death toll hits 30 as number of infections soars

Children are examined in a kindergarten in Zhengzhou, capital of central China's Henan Province, May 5, 2008. In order to ensure children's health and prevent diseases transmitted by hand, foot or mouth, lots of kindergartens in Zhengzhou started to practice morning examination after the May Day Holidays to promote health habits as washing hands, basking and eating well-cooked food. (Xinhua Photo)
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) May 8, 2008
The number of children confirmed to have died as a result of a highly contagious virus in China rose to 30 on Thursday as the number of infections soared by the thousands, state media said.

Two children in the southern island province of Hainan died of hand, foot and mouth disease, boosting the grim total, Xinhua news agency reported.

Xinhua did not say when the deaths occurred but it appeared to be the first report in Hainan of the intestinal ailment enterovirus 71, which can lead to hand, foot and mouth disease.

Xinhua said Thursday that the number of cases of hand, foot and mouth had soared to nearly 22,450 nationwide, up from about 2,500 reported the day before.

Hand, foot and mouth is a common ailment in China, but cases have expanded at such an alarming rate this season that the government has issued a national alert aimed at controlling its spread.

State media on Wednesday warned of a "mass outbreak" of the disease, which has also struck Olympic host city Beijing, just three months before the Games are to begin.

Both China and the World Health Organisation have sought to calm fears about the outbreak, saying there was no cause for panic.

Last year, China recorded more than 80,000 cases, with 17 deaths.

The disease has now appeared across eastern, central and southern China.

It first emerged in large numbers in eastern China in early March, but was not made public until last week, prompting state press to accuse local officials of dragging their feet on raising the alarm.

Anhui province has been the hardest hit, with 22 of the deaths occurring in the provincial city of Fuyang.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is spread through direct contact with the mucus, saliva or faeces of an infected person. Symptoms include fever and sores or blisters on the buttocks and elsewhere.

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China urges authorities to step up education of deadly disease
Beijing (AFP) May 7, 2008
China on Wednesday urged local health authorities to step up public education of a highly contagious disease that has led to the deaths of 28 children.

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