Hand, foot and mouth kills 19 children in eastern Chinese city

Beijing  - Nineteen children have died and 789 fallen ill with hand, food and mouth disease in an eastern Chinese city, the official news agency Xinhua reported Monday.

The outbreak of the severe strain of the disease, enterovirus 71, began at the start of March in Fuyang in Anhui province, the city's health department said.

The children remaining in hospital number 204 and four were in critical condition, it said.

All the patients are under 6 and most are under 2.

The symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease are usually mild and include ulcers and blisters in the mouth, rashes on the hands and feet, and fever, but a small minority of cases become life-threatening, mainly because of neurological complications, such as encephalitis and meningitis, and lung haemorrhages.

The virus is highly infectious and transmitted through saliva, blister fluid and faeces. There is no vaccine.

Local media reported that the outbreak caused concern and panic among parents and the general population.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is common among babies and children, but it is rare among adults, who usually have immune systems that are developed and strong enough to fight off the virus.

Singapore has been fighting a recent outbreak itself. As of last week, 8,400 cases had been reported there this year, at least 16 schools had been closed down and 10 more had been urged to voluntarily shut down for disinfection. (dpa)