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GUANGZHOU: Eighteen children have died of encephalitis B in South China's Guangdong Province, the Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Public Health said on Friday.

By the day's end, the province had diagnosed 211 youngsters - all under the age of 11 - with encephalitis B.

And another 25 children are believed to be infected.

Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, has seven encephalitis B patients.

The port cities of Maoming and Zhanjiang in western Guangdong Province have been the hardest hit by the illness. Maoming has 70 cases and Zhanjiang has 54.

They are followed by Meizhou in eastern Guangdong, which has 39 encephalitis B patients, mostly from Wuhua County.

The cities of Shanwei, Yunfu, Heyuan, Jieyang, Dongguan, Zhongshan and Qingyuan have also reported cases.

But an official from the public health bureau said the disease was unlikely to reach epidemic proportions in Guangdong.

"Encephalitis B can be treated and prevented, and is not a new disease in Guangdong," he said.

Encephalitis B tends to reach its peak in Guangdong Province between May and July, the official said.

This period usually accounts for between 80 and 90 per cent of total annual infections of encephalitis B, he added.

To prevent the disease from spreading in the province, which borders Hong Kong and Macao, the Guangdong health bureau issued an emergency notice on Wednesday ordering all children under 16 years of age to be vaccinated against encephalitis B.

The official estimated more than half of children in the province are not inoculated against the illness.

And the rate is likely to be even higher in Guangdong's rural and poor areas.

A campaign to wipe out mosquitoes, which can carry the virus from infected pigs, will also be launched in the province later this month, the official said.

Symptoms of encephalitis B include fever, headache, sleepiness and vomiting.

The disease usually has an incubation period of between 10 and 14 days.

(China Daily 06/21/2003 page3)

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