BEIJING - Forty children have died of hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD) and a total 77,756 cases were reported in China last month, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on its website.
The death toll in March alone was double the total of the first two months. The MOH said the HFMD was the biggest Class C infectious disease in March.
The classes of infectious diseases were categorized by the MOH, with Class A, which includes cholera and the plague, being the most serious and Class C the least serious.
The second biggest Class C killer was infectious diarrhea, which claimed two lives last month.
Vice-Premier Li Keqiang Wednesday urged the boosting of efforts to prevent and control the HFMD nationwide as the illness re-emerges in parts of the country.
"Spring and summer are a peak period for infectious diseases. Currently, preventing and controlling various infectious diseases such as the hand-foot-mouth disease is a key task," Li said.
Li urged the acceleration of research into vaccines and drugs for the disease and a focus on prevention and control work in rural areas for the most vulnerable groups.
South China's Guangxi Autonomous Region, Guangdong province, central China's Henan and Hebei provinces, east China's Shandong province all reported the outbreak of HFMD.
Many provinces have warned parents to be aware of the symptoms of the disease and to closely monitor their children. Good personal hygiene, including washing hands often, was strongly recommended to prevent the disease.
HFMD is a common illness that mainly affects children under the age of 10. It usually starts with a slight fever followed by blisters and ulcers in the mouth and rashes on the hands and feet. It is spread through contact with saliva or feces of the infected.