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'Contagious disease spreads among China infants'

world Updated: Mar 24, 2009 11:46 IST

AFP
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Thousands of children in east and central China have been sickened with hand, foot and mouth disease, a highly contagious illness that is sometimes fatal, the government and state press said on Tuesday.

Two children died of the disease, also known as enterovirus, over the weekend in Heze city in the eastern province of Shandong, the provincial medical department said on its website.

According to the Beijing News paper, tests on the causes of another four recent infant deaths in and around Heze were still being confirmed by doctors.

Symptoms of the highly contagious disease include fever and sores. It can be fatal in children due to their less-developed immune systems.

The disease, which is common in China, took an unusually high toll in the first few months of 2008, infecting nearly 25,000 people nationwide and killing around 40, according to government figures.

By comparison, 17 deaths were reported in 2007.

According to the Shandong medical department, just over 500 cases of hand, foot and mouth disease have been reported in the province this year.

Neighbouring Henan province has reported more than 2,100 cases this year, the local medical department said in a March 19 report posted on its website.