Fatal intestinal virus spreads in China
A potentially fatal intestinal virus is spreading rapidly in China, with 766 new cases registered in the past 24 hours, national media said on Sunday.
Enterovirus 71 first appeared in March when young children were admitted to hospitals in Fuyung, a city in the central Chinese province of Anhui, suffering from fever, rashes, blisters and mouth ulcers. The virus has so far killed 22 children in the province. Over 4,500 people, mostly children, have also been infected.
China's Health Ministry has now issued a nationwide alert.
Tests revealed that an 18-month-old boy died of the virus on Friday in Guangdong, a province on China's southern coast, some 1,000 miles (1,600 kms) away from the original source of infection, China's Xinhua news agency said. Another suspected death in the same province is being investigated.
Though the death rate from the virus itself is quite low, it causes various complications depending on the age of the patient. Infected children under the age of two may suffer paralysis, while meningitis is more common in children between two and five.
No specific antiviral medicine is available for the treatment of the infection, with doctors concentrating mainly on preventing complications.
The disease is expected to reach its peak in June and July, shortly before the Beijing Olympics starts in August.
Russian health and sanitary officials have sent a formal letter to the Chinese authorities requesting information about possible cases of the virus in the province of Heilongjiang, along the Russian-Chinese border.
"This information is necessary to outline measures for preventing the virus from spreading to our territory," said Dmitry Maslov, a health and sanitary official in Russia's Far East.