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China is Tight-Lipped on Reporting Virus as Olympics Near

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, May 07, 2008 11:47 AM EST
Category: None
Tags: Infectious Disease, Public Health, Enterovirus 71, Viral Meningitis,

China has been tight lipped about an outbreak of hand,foot and mouth disease as the summer Olympics loom.



IMAGE SOURCE: WikiMedia Commons/ Hangcun village in Anhui Province, China/ author: Udo Schoene


The timing couldn’t be worse for China.

As that country is preparing to host the Beijing Summer Olympics, a deadly virus has been killing children and the government’s secrecy has caused more cases to emerge.

China has been criticized and 10 people have been punished for failing to properly handle hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD). 28 children have died. The central province of Anhui is the worst-hit with 5,000 of the 8,500 cases.

No word on what “properly handle” means although the outbreak emerged in March but was only reported in mid-April.

The Communist country is well-practiced in controlling information and newspaper headlines in Beijing suggest that may extend to public health.

Now the government is making it mandatory for all health care workers to report all cases of the virus. The Minister of Health is asking all sick children be sent immediately to clinics.

There were 15,799 cases reported to the health department on Monday. Under the new mandate that increased to 16,778 cases by Wednesday. The outbreak was also made a class C epidemic by the Ministry of Health. 

The virus that is unrelated to the disease of the same name that affects livestock. The enterovirus (EV71) is highly contagious. It causes fever, blisters in the mouth and a rash on hands and feet. It can cause brain, heart and lung damage and lead to viral meningitis.

There is no vaccine or treatment for the disease which generally children recover from.  It is spread through contact with infected saliva, feces and fluids from the body.

The epidemic which has shut down many kindergartens has spread to nearly 20 provinces across the country.

China had an epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 that eventually killed 774 worldwide, also brought criticism to the Communist leadership for a failure to handle infectious outbreaks.

The country also failed to respond quickly to investigate a fake powdered milk scandal four years ago when 200 became ill and 13 died.

People are being told not to panic but to practice preventive sanitary measures.

The summer Olympic games begin August 8th.  The disease is predicted to peak with the warmer weather in June and July.  #

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