BEIJING (Reuters) - A virus outbreak in an eastern Chinese city has killed 19 children and left hundreds ill, state media reported on Sunday nearly two months after the outbreak started.
The intestinal virus called “enterovirus 71” or EV71, one trigger of what is sometimes called “hand-foot-mouth disease”, began spreading in Fuyang in Anhui province from early March, the Xinhua news agency reported, citing the city health office.
The victims, mostly aged from two to six, came to hospitals with “fever, along with blisters, ulcers in the mouth, or rashes on the hands and feet,” the report said.
By Saturday, 19 children had died from the outbreak and 204 remained in hospital, including four in a critical condition. In total, 789 were struck by the virus.
Province and central Ministry of Health officials and doctors have gone to Fuyang to investigate the outbreak, help the patients, and “fully roll out prevention and control work,” said Xinhua.
The report did not identify the source of the virus or say why Fuyang has been hit so badly. Nor did it say why the outbreak was publicly reported only now.
In 2004, the gritty industrial and agricultural hub with a population of some 900,000 became the centre of a national scandal when at least 8 babies died there from drinking milk powder that investigators later found had no nutritional value.
Enteroviruses spread mostly via contact with infected blisters or feces, and “enterovirus 71” outbreaks have occurred in past years in Taiwan, Malaysia and some East European countries.
Usually the virus brings fever and blisters or ulcers inside the mouth and on the limbs. Sometimes it can cause deadly high fever, paralysis, and swelling of the brain or its lining.
Drinking water and food in schools, kindergartens and villages around Fuyang are now being inspected for possible sources of the virus, the report said.
Reporting by Chris Buckley