China struggles to cope with killer virus amid earthquake devastation

The death toll in China from hand-foot-mouth disease has now risen to 42 with another 24,934 children sickened by the deadly virus; all the fatalities have been children.

The virus has now hit Beijing with the first death of a child in the capital and another in a child from neighbouring Hebei, who died on route to hospital in Beijing.

The strain of hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD) currently ravaging China has been caused by enterovirus 71, or EV-71, which is one of the most common causes of the disease.

It is thought the dramatic rise in the infections rate is because the Ministry of Health late last week, ordered that all cases must be reported.

There is no vaccine and no treatment for severe cases of HFMD, which can cause paralysis; the disease is not normally a problem for adults with healthy immune systems.

Mild cases cause cold-like symptoms, diarrhea, and sores and blisters on the hands, feet and mouth - severe cases can cause fluid to accumulate on the brain, which causes paralysis and death, and children are particularly vulnerable.

An outbreak of HFMD in Taiwan in 1998 caused 78 deaths.

The devastation created by a massive earthquake in China on Monday killing thousands and leaving even more people trapped in rubble or simply missing, has clearly exacerbated the situation.

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