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China Claims Viral Outbreak Contained

Around 900 persons in the Shangdong province of eastern China have been afflicted with hand, foot and mouth disease, but the outbreak has since been contained, state news agency Xinhua has reported.

About 470 patients had recovered by Friday last and another 393 people mostly children were still sick with more than half still in the hospital, the agency said, citing Bao Wenhui, the deputy director of the provincial health department.

A 2-year-old girl diagnosed as a probable hand, foot and mouth patient died on April 29, but no other deaths have been reported since, Xinhua said.

Shandong Province recorded 2,477 cases of hand-food-mouth disease in 2005, including one death, and 3,030 cases in 2006, two of them fatal, it added.

China has in the past been accused of foot-dragging in releasing information about outbreaks of diseases such as bird flu and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

Chinese bloggers in Shandong said in early May that 26 children had died in the outbreak. However, authorities have dismissed the reports as rumours.

The disease, also known as coxsackie virus, is characterized by mouth sores, rashes, blisters and fever. Highly contagious among children, it is not normally fatal.

It is not related to foot and mouth disease, which infects cattle, sheep and swine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes hand, foot and mouth disease as mild, and says nearly all patients recover in seven to 10 days without medical treatment. But one cause of the disease may also lead to more serious and fatal diseases such as encephalitis or a type of paralysis, according to the CDC.

Xinhua said local health departments have launched a public awareness campaign and quarantined children who are sick.


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