Continuing Outbreak of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease in China
A total of 22,240 Chinese infants or children this year have contracted hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) due to enterovirus 71 (EV71), reports the official Xinhua News Agency. The tally, which includes 30 deaths, increased by 2278 cases yesterday. It is unclear if the 24-hour surge is due to new cases during that time period, the prompted reporting of existing cases, or both. WHO reveals that the disease only became notifiable in China on May 2. Therefore, the count of those affected has been expected to increase substantially as a result of changes in the reporting policy.
In the hard-hit Anhui Province, home to Fuyang City, 7283 cases of the contagious illness have been identified, with 22 deaths. A total of 738 infections were reported Tuesday, but no fatalities have occurred during the last week. The news agency writes that 2218 patients remain hospitalized in the province, a small fraction of which are in serious or critical condition.
In Fuyang City alone, there have been 4496 cases since May 5, and 1391 children remain hospitalized there, according to WHO. Xinhua reports that a laboratory was recently established in the city, presumably to facilitate diagnostic testing for EV71, which had been performed previously in Beijing (nearly 500 miles away) or Hefei, the province capital (approximately 100 miles away).
WHO reminds us that HFMD is a common and usually mild childhood disease, caused by coxsackie virus A16 or EV71, although EV71-related HFMD can manifest infrequently as encephalitis or poliomyelitis-like paralysis. Outbreaks of EV71-related HFMD throughout southeast Asia and Australia have been documented since 1997.
Treatment of HFMD consists of supportive, symptomatic care. There is no available vaccine, and prevention relies on appropriate hygienic measures, particularly handwashing. A nationwide personal-hygiene campaign is reportedly ongoing in China. Xinhua also indicates that traditional Chinese medicine is urged by local health authorities, including “a recipe involving a number of Chinese herbs that must be used continuously for at least 7 days.”
Map image highlighting Anhui Province (hot pink) from Wikipedia and reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.