Chinas ministry of health has issued a high alert over a deadly virus causing hand-foot-mouth disease among children.
By the second week of May, the outbreak had claimed 26 lives and infected over 11,000 people. Health authorities say the highly contagious disease is triggered by enterovirus 71 and affects children aged between two and six.
The infection was first reported in Fuyang city in Anhui province on March 20; at least 22 children have been killed in the city alone. People allege that health officials did not warn them of the outbreak, which compounded the situation. The disease has now spread to provinces of Shaanxi, Guangdong, Hunan and Hubei. The ministry has classified it as class C epidemic requiring health officials to directly report to the ministry. It has warned that the epidemic is likely to spread further in June-July, when humidity in the air makes it favourable for the virus. A who official has clarified that the outbreak will not affect the Beijing Olympic Games in August.
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