Seven more children have died in an especially virulent outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease in central China, bringing this year's death toll from the virus to 57, state media reported on Thursday.
About 126,000 cases have been reported this year, nearly 55,000 in March alone, 31 of which were fatal. Almost all patients were children under age 5. Health officials have said this year's strain is especially strong.
In China's central Henan province alone, 25 deaths have been reported among about 31,000 cases, up 50 per cent from figures released last week, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The seven deaths reported on Thursday occurred in Henan.
State media reported last year that the virus sickened 27,000 children and killed dozens in the first few months of 2008 before reports of outbreaks subsided in May.
Most of the cases this year have been in rural areas in the provinces of Henan, Shandong, Jiangsu, Guangxi, Anhui, Guangdong, Hebei, Hubei, Hunan and Zhejiang.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is characterised by fever, mouth sores and a rash with blisters. It is spread by direct contact with nose and throat discharges, saliva, fluid from blisters, or the stool of infected people.