Hong Kong "very concerned" at deadly China virus outbreak

Other News Materials 5 May 2008 11:59 (UTC +04:00)

Hong Kong's health minister said Monday he was "very concerned" at the possibility of a deadly virus that has killed 24 children in China spreading across the border, reported dpa.

Twenty-two children in China's Anhui province and two more in Guangdong province neighbouring Hong Kong have been killed by the EV71 virus which leads to hand, foot and mouth disease.

Thousands more children have been infected with the virus and Hong Kong health secretary York Chow said Monday there had been 10 cases already in the city of 6.9 million, but no fatalities.

"Every year from May to July is usually the peak season and this is only early May so we are very concerned that (cases) might increase in Hong Kong in the coming months," Chow said.

"So far the situation isn't serious but we can foresee that the incidences might climb up in the weeks ahead."

Thousands of Hong Kong people are expected to cross the border to China for a long weekend marking Buddha's birthday next week and doctors fear they may bring the virus back with them.

During the 2003 SARS outbreak, people travelling the busy border between China and Hong Kong brought the disease to the former British colony where it killed 299 and infected 1,755.

Infectious diseases expert Lo Wing-lok told Monday's Standard newspaper that frequent cross-border trips and the forthcoming holiday weekend heightened the risk.

Hong Kong has a handful of cases a year of hand, foot and mouth disease, also known as EV71, which are usually imported from neighboring south-east Asian countries.

EV71 is usually quickly diagnosed and treated and the deaths in Anhui and Guangdong provinces in China are believed to be the result of low awareness about the virus.