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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Virus Kills 22 Children in Eastern China

BEIJING — A fast-spreading viral outbreak in China has killed 22 children, sickened nearly 3,600 others and caused panic among parents in an impoverished corner of Anhui Province, government health officials said Friday.

All of the fatalities, from lung problems and other complications, have been in children younger than 6, with a majority of them under 2.

The outbreak, caused by a particularly strong intestinal virus, enterovirus 71, or EV-71, has been spreading in the city of Fuyang, in east-central China, since early March. Provincial health officials, however, announced the outbreak only this week, raising questions about whether they had been trying to conceal it.

There is no vaccine or cure, but most patients recover in a week without treatment. In severe cases, brain swelling can lead to paralysis or death. Cleaning surfaces and washing hands significantly reduces the spread of the pathogen.

.....schools had been closed and that local health officials were instructing parents to frequently wash their children’s hands. “We really hope journalists can come and report more on this,” he said.

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