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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Enterovirus 71 Hits Beijing


The first reports of the Enterovirus 71 (EV71) infecting children in China's Capital of Beijing were confirmed today. 24,934 children in China have become sickened with this enterovirus and 42 children have died.
EV71 is also known as hand-foot-mouth disease and has no relation to the foot-and-mouth disease found in animals.

According to China's state media, the first two casualties in Beijing have been confirmed to be from the Enterovirus 71, to which according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there is no treatment for severe EV-71 infections nor does a vaccine exist.

There have been reported 3,606 hand-food-mouth infections in Beijing as of Monday with 32 patients still in hospital under treatment. Eight of them are in serious condition.

In mild cases the enterovirus causes symptoms similar to those of the common cold as well as diarrhea, and sores on the hands, feet and mouth. In severe cases fluids build on the brain, resulting in polio-like paralysis and death.

Adults with a well developed immune system are much better prepared to handle the Enterovirus 71 without fatal consequences, but children are particularly vulnerable to this.

The Chinese Ministry of Health has issued an order requiring all cases of the hand-foot-mouth disease to be reported. The number of cases is expected to rise over the warm summer months.

The outbreak started just weeks ago and the rapidly growing number of infections has risen to 24,934 to date with 42 children having died, which is a good indicator of how contagious this Enterovirus is.

This spreads with saliva, feces, fluid secreted from blisters or mucus from the nose and throat.

The CDC lists preventative measures that can be taken against this disease, such as good hygienic practices that include frequent hand washing, especially after diaper changes, cleaning of contaminated surfaces and soiled items first with soap and water, and then disinfecting them by diluted solution of chlorine-containing bleach, as well as avoiding close contact (kissing, hugging, sharing utensils, etc.) with children with Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease may also help to reduce of the risk of infection to caregivers.