US health secretary visits China; progress reported in curbing virus that killed 34 children
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt visited Shanghai on Monday to discuss a viral outbreak that has killed at least 34 children, AP reported.
The United States is offering to help China in its fight against the outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease, which were expected to feature prominently in Leavitt's talks later in the week with top Chinese health officials.
Leavitt's visit, scheduled before the outbreaks were reported, will also take him to Beijing.
His trip comes as the U.S. prepares to open an office of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help ensure better control over imports of drugs and pharmaceutical ingredients from China amid an investigation of a blood thinner linked to 81 deaths.
China's official Xinhua News Agency reported late Sunday that the viral infections that killed 34 children and sickened thousands of others had been brought under control in the eastern city of Fuyang, the worst affected area.
No deaths were reported from May 2 to May 10 in Fuyang, where 22 children were killed by the disease as of May 10, the paper said.
"The incidence of HFMD in Fuyang is on the decline. The majority of patients in critical condition in Fuyang have recovered," Xinhua quoted a Health Ministry official, identified only by his surname, Yang, as saying.
Most cases of hand, foot and mouth in China this year have been blamed on enterovirus 71, a virus that can cause a severe form of the disease.
The disease spreads through contact with saliva, feces, fluid secreted from blisters or mucus from the nose and throat. There is no vaccine or specific treatment, but most children affected by the disease typically recover quickly after suffering little more than a fever and rash.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is not related to the foot and mouth disease that affects livestock.
American health experts have helped with epidemiology in past disease outbreaks in China, including the SARS epidemic of 2003, when Beijing was criticized internationally for trying to conceal the emergence of the disease.