Deadly virus won't be another SARS - doctor

Updated: 2008-05-07 12:44

BEIJING - A prominent Chinese doctor said China's deadly hand, foot and mouth outbreak will not become another epidemic on the scale of the SARS virus, even as the numbers of reported cases mounted on Wednesday.

Hand, foot and mouth is a common childhood illness, but the current outbreak has led to some 27 fatalities, mostly when linked with enterovirus 71 (EV71), which can cause a severe form of the disease, characterised by high fever, paralysis and meningitis.

"The situation is completely different from SARS," Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese expert on respiratory diseases, said in an article posted on the government Web site of southern Guangdong province, where SARS was discovered in 2002.

"At present, the disease has already been diagnosed and there is proper prevention, so it will not evolve into a SARS-like epidemic."

Xinhua put the number of cases of hand, foot and mouth at 15,799, up from about 12,000 cases reported on Tuesday, though it was not clear whether the jump was due to the disease's spread or more thorough reporting.

A two-year-old girl in the central province of Hunan has become the latest to die of the EV71 strain, the official Xinhua news agency reported. It was the first reported death in that area.

The outbreak has centred on Fuyang, in the poor, eastern province of Anhui, but Xinhua said the city had seen no fatalities for the past five days, suggesting the situation there was stabilising.

Health officials have cautioned that the outbreak has yet to peak, saying its high season is usually June and July.

In Beijing, two kindergartens were temporarily closed after children showed symptoms of hand, foot and mouth, but the Beijing News reported that laboratory tests had not yet confirmed whether it was the EV71 strain.

At least one international school in Beijing has also sent out a notice regarding the outbreak, warning parents to watch for signs of tiredness, fever and blisters and saying that in line with usual practice those with fever should be kept at home.

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