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Mass intestinal virus infection in China kills one more child
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A mass intestinal virus infection in the eastern Chinese city of Fuyang, Anhui Province has killed another child, bringing the death toll to 21, a local health official said on Friday.

The latest death case was reported on Thursday afternoon, Gao Kaiyan, director of the Anhui Provincial Health Department, told a meeting.

By Thursday morning, 2,946 children have been sickened by the virus, known as enterovirus 71, or EV71, up from 2,477 registered a day earlier, Gao said.

A total of 849 children have recovered and 879 remain in hospital, 40 of them described as "seriously" ill and nine "critically" ill. More than 1,000 children were being treated as outpatients.

"Authorities in Anhui and Fuyang are doing utmost to treat the children and strengthen disease control," he said.

Local health authorities have designated more hospitals to admit and treat ill children, he added.

Previously, only two hospitals, including the Fuyang Municipal People's Hospital and Fuyang Municipal No. 2 People's Hospital, were allowed to receive such patients.

Hospitals in Fuyang in northwest Anhui started to take in children with fever, blisters, mouth ulcers and rashes on the hands and feet in early March. Some were diagnosed with brain, heart and lung damage.

All were aged below six, of whom the majority being under two.

In a bid to stop the virus spreading to more children, all kindergartens in Fuyang began the three-day May Day vacation two days early.

There are about 400,000 children below the age of five in Fuyang.

EV71 can cause hand, foot and mouth disease that usually starts with a slight fever followed by blisters and ulcers in the mouth and rashes on hands and feet.

It may also cause high fever, meningitis, encephalitis, pulmonary edema and paralysis in a small number of children.

Infection can lead to high mortalities rates in serious cases and no vaccine is available.

(Xinhua News Agency May 2, 2008)

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