Death toll from virus reaches 32 in China

Source:  Death toll from virus reaches 32 in China    Tag:  coxsackie a16 virus

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- The death toll from China's outbreak of hand-foot-mouth disease has risen to 32 -- all of them children -- the state-run Xinhua news agency reported Friday, citing provincial health officials.

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A Chinese nurse injects a child infected by Enterovirus 71 in Fuyang City.

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The latest reported deaths occurred in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southwestern China and in Guangdong province in the country's southeast, the agency said.

Authorities reported 24,934 cases of the disease on Thursday -- a 25 percent increase from a day earlier.

The official count of infections has increased dramatically in recent days, since an order issued late last week by the Ministry of Health mandating that all cases be reported.

Chinese health authorities have been dispatched to the worst-hit province, Anhui, in rural eastern China, where 22 of the 32 fatalities have occurred. The deaths are blamed on enterovirus 71, or EV-71, one of the most common causes of HFMD. All of the deaths occurred in Fuyang City.

The provincial government has quarantined people exposed to the virus and limited movement into and out of Fuyang, where the outbreak was first reported in mid-March.

Authorities there have also closed schools and sprayed streets with disinfectant.

HFMD is not related to foot-and-mouth disease, which affects farm animals. HFMD can be caused by a number of intestinal viruses, of which EV-71 and Coxsackie A16 are among the most common.

In mild cases, EV-71 causes cold-like symptoms, diarrhea, and sores on the hands, feet and mouth. Severe cases can cause fluid to accumulate on the brain, resulting in polio-like paralysis and death.

There is no treatment for severe EV-71 infections nor does a vaccine exist. Adults with well-developed immune systems can usually fend off the virus, but children are particularly vulnerable to it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public health officials expect the number of cases to peak this summer, since the disease thrives in warm weather.

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The virus is a concern for Chinese officials as the nation prepares to host the Summer Olympic Games starting August 8.

A large outbreak of HFMD occurred in Taiwan in 1998 with 78 deaths, and smaller outbreaks recurred there in 2000 and 2001, according to the CDC.