Suspected child virus cases continue to rise in China
China on Tuesday said the number of suspected cases of a virally transmitted hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD) among children had risen to about 12,000, as the World Health Organization promised support in curbing the spread of the disease, reported dpa.
Local health authorities had reported 11,905 HFMD cases, including 26 deaths, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The worst-hit area, the eastern province of Anhui, recorded 5,840 infections, including 689 new cases reported on Sunday, the agency said.
Most of the cases were in Anhui's Fuyang city, where 22 children have died since March 20 and 1,314 remain hospitalized, it said.
Anhui health officials had given unspecified punishments to 10 doctors and officials accused of negligence by delaying treatment or failing to warn local residents of the symptoms of the disease, the agency said.
WHO China representative Hans Troedsson on Monday praised China's "quick response" to the outbreak and offered support to Health Minister Chen Zhu, the ministry said.
About 1,500 infections were reported in Beijing but a WHO official said earlier that the spread of the disease was unlikely to influence the Beijing Olympics in August as only young children were infected.
HFMD causes symptoms including ulcers and blisters in the mouth, rashes on the hands and feet and fever.
It is spread mainly by enterovirus or EV71, but can also be transmitted by several other viruses.
The disease mainly affects infants and young children and is life- threatening in a small number of cases owing to complications such as lung haemorrhage and meningitis.
The WHO said last week that Chinese health authorities were expecting more deaths and believed the virus would peak in June or July.
It remained unclear how many of the suspected infections were confirmed by tests, although Xinhua on Monday said tests had shown the presence of the EV71 virus in at least 24 of the children who died.
The virus is transmitted through saliva, blister fluid and faeces but it is rare among adults, who are strong enough to fight off the virus.
EV71 is usually quickly diagnosed and treated and the deaths in Anhui and other areas are believed to be the result of low awareness about the virus.