Death toll in China now at 39 as 5 more children die from enterovirus 71

The death toll in China from enterovirus 71 (EV71) has risen to 39 with the deaths of five more children; EV71 belongs to the same family as the polio virus and is a strain of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).

While health officials claim the outbreak has been brought under control, children continue to be struck down with the deadly virus and as many as 27,500 cases of the disease have now been reported in China this year.

As health officials say more children are being discharged from hospital, a child died in eastern Anhui province on Thursday, another child died in southern Hainan province and three more have died in southern Guangdong.

According to the authorities new cases are declining in some of the worst affected areas such as Fuyang in the eastern Anhui province, where more than 5,000 cases and at least 23 deaths were reported; they say many who were critically ill have now recovered.

There is currently no vaccine for HFMD and while it is a common childhood illness, in the current outbreak it has been linked with enterovirus 71 (EV71), which can cause a severe form of the disease characterised by high fever, paralysis and meningitis.

HFMD causes symptoms including ulcers and blisters in the mouth, rashes on the hands and feet and fever and is spread mainly by EV71, but it can be caused by a number of other intestinal viruses.

As a rule most patients with HFMD, who are mainly infants and young children, recover within a week to 10 days.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says China's efforts to curb the spread of infections is satisfactory .

Macao has had 99 reported cases of HFMD.

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