Provincial officials to track lethal virus

Updated: 2008-04-29 07:28

Authorities in Anhui have set up a province-wide daily reporting system to monitor a lethal virus that has killed 19 children and made 915 others sick in Fuyang city.

The move comes after local officials failed to alert the public to a possible epidemic.

Enterovirus (EV) 71 can cause hand, foot and mouth disease, which usually starts with a slight fever followed by ulcerated blisters in the mouth and on the hands and feet.

Infections can be deadly and neither vaccine nor therapeutic treatment is available.

The Beijing and Guangdong health departments both said yesterday that no cases had been reported in their regions.

In early March, hospitals in Fuyang admitted children with fevers, as well as blisters, mouth ulcers and rashes on their hands and feet. Some were diagnosed with brain, heart and lung damage.

A subsequent failure to alert the public to the situation and to identify the epidemic exacerbated the outbreak.

A press officer with the Ministry of Health yesterday declined to comment on what punishments local authorities and hospitals would face and said Anhui provincial authorities are handling the situation.

On March 31, Fuyang People's Hospital reported the deaths of five children who had succumbed to fevers. They also had blisters, mouth ulcers and sores on their hands and feet. A larger number of children showed similar symptoms, causing panic among parents.

The local government made its first public announcement about the disease 15 days later. Media reports said the deaths were the result of "severe pneumonia after fever and respiration exhaustion" and that "these cases are not an epidemic, so people don't have to be alarmed".

After that, parents began to send children back to school, even as the virus was spreading.

China Daily-Xinhua

(China Daily 04/29/2008 page4)