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New Disease Outbreaks Infect Over 12,000 Chinese Children

HENRY SANDERSON   05/ 6/08 05:27 PM ET   AP

Children With Disease In China

BEIJING — New outbreaks reported Tuesday in three Chinese provinces and Beijing put the number of children infected with hand, foot and mouth disease above 12,000 and the death toll has risen to at least 26 across the country.

The official Xinhua News Agency said outbreaks in southwest Yunnan, the northeastern province of Jilin and the tropical island of Hainan, putting the total number of infections at 12,164.

Two kindergartens in Beijing were temporarily shut down Tuesday after children there showed symptoms of the disease, Xinhua said. There have been 1,482 cases in Beijing, most in kindergartens, it said.

At least 26 children in China so far have died from the disease. Twenty-four of the deaths, in the central province of Anhui and Guangdong province in the south have been blamed on enterovirus 71, one of several viruses that cause the disease, Xinhua said.

Two other children _ one in Guangdong and another in the coastal province of Zhejiang _ have also died of hand, foot and mouth disease but it wasn't immediately clear which strain of virus killed them, it said.

Although nearly all the deaths have been blamed on the virus known as EV-71, it was not immediately clear how many of the overall infections were traced to it. Xinhua said in Yunnan only nine of the 113 cases were caused by EV-71.

The hardest-hit areas include the provinces of Anhui, Guangdong, Zhejiang, and the capital Beijing. There have been smaller outbreaks in Hebei, Jiangsu, Hunan, Hubei, Shaanxi, Jiangxi and Henan provinces and in the city of Chongqing.

Xinhua said the jump in cases was due in part to a new regulation from the Ministry of Health classifying hand, foot and mouth disease among those that have to be reported to the central government.

Enterovirus causes a severe form of hand, foot and mouth disease with symptoms including fever, mouth sores and rashes with blisters. It is easily spread by sneezing or coughing. The viruses mainly strike children ages 10 and younger. Some cases can lead to fatal swelling of the brain.

There is no vaccine or specific treatment, but most children affected by mild forms of the disease typically recover quickly without problems.

Vietnam has recorded some 2,000 cases of hand, foot and mouth disease in the first four months of this year, said Nguyen Huy Nga, director of the Ministry of Health's Department of Preventive Medicine. Between 10 and 20 percent were caused by EV71.

Ten fatalities caused by the virus have been reported in the first four months, he said.

The number of cases represents an increase of 40 percent against the same period of last year, he said.

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Associated Press Medical Writer Margie Mason in Hanoi, Vietnam, contributed to this story.

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Filed by Nick Graham  |