Hand-foot-mouth disease has claimed the lives of 18 Chinese children so far this year, as the disease has spread across the country, the Ministry of Health said Friday.
The ministry recorded 41,846 cases of hand-foot-mouth disease in 30 provinces and regions, excluding Tibet, in the past three months, ministry spokesman Deng Haihua said.
About 94 percent of the patients were children under five years old, 75 percent were affected by the virus EV71, and 94 suffered severe symptoms, Deng told a press conference in Beijing.
The Associated Press reports on possible reasons for the peak:
Li Xinwang, a doctor at Beijing’s Ditan Hospital, said the peak season for the spread of the virus is usually May through July, but that this year’s early spike in cases indicates the toll will likely be higher than average.
He attributed the high number of cases early in the year to “dramatic temperature fluctuations” which helped spread the virus, particularly in rural areas where sanitation is poor and health care is substandard.
Vivian Tam, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization in China, said the apparent jump in cases could be partly due to more awareness.
“One reason the numbers have increased this year is not necessarily because there are more cases, but rather, there is more reporting of cases than before,” said Tam.