Central China's Hubei Province has seen 340 cases of hand-foot-mouth disease this year, but no deaths reported, local health authorities said on Friday.
At least five cases were caused by an intestinal virus known as enterovirus 71, or EV71, which has left 21 children dead and 2,946 ill in Fuyang City, in neighboring Anhui Province, since early March.
Most of the cases in Hubei were isolated, except for 39 children aged three and four reported at three kindergartens in Guanghua district, Qianjiang City since April 29, the Provincial Health Department said in a statement.
Experts from the provincial disease control center collected and tested samples from five children on Thursday morning, determining that they had been infected with EV71, it said.
But no figures were provided on the total number of children in the city and the province at large have been infected with EV71.
According to the statement, 33 children in Qianjiang have recovered or are recovering, and six are being treated as outpatients.
No new cases of hand-foot-mouth disease have been reported in Hubei since April 30, it said, and local health authorities have been ordered to make daily reports on the disease.
"Experts from the provincial disease control center are still in Qianjiang to guide the disease control work," the statement said.
Hand-foot-mouth disease, also known as coxsackievirus infection, is a common childhood illness that mainly affects children under 10. Symptoms include fever, sores in the mouth and a rash with blisters. It often begins with a sore throat.
Moderately contagious, the disease, more common in summer and autumn, can be transmitted through nose and throat discharges. It can sometimes be fatal if complications occur.
China first reported the hand-foot-mouth disease in Shanghai in 1981. An outbreak of the disease in northern Tianjin in 1983 caused more than 7,000 infections.
Last year in Linyi City, eastern Shandong Province, two boys and a girl, all under the age of two, died from the disease.
EV71 can cause hand, foot and mouth disease, which 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 death rates in serious cases and no vaccines are available.
(Xinhua News Agency May 2, 2008)