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Rural areas targeted in crackdown on HFMD

HEALTH Minister Chen Zhu has urged medical workers to visit rural areas to detect and prevent cases of hand-foot-mouth disease, which has killed 19 children in China this year.

Chen told health workers to visit every village and household in the countryside to check for cases of the childhood virus, after health officials said on Friday that more than 41,840 cases had been detected in all the provincial areas on the Chinese mainland except the Tibet Autonomous Region. Most cases were in rural areas.

In Shandong Province's Heze City alone, five babies died last week.

Shanghai reported 1,532 cases of hand-foot-mouth disease up to Saturday. All the cases were sporadic ones with no major outbreaks, critical cases or any deaths, the Shanghai Health Bureau said yesterday. Children under 6 were the main victims of the disease, accounting for 94.97 percent of all cases so far this year, the bureau said.

The health minister said local health authorities should report infections promptly to the ministry and effective measures should be taken if an outbreak occurred or seemed likely to occur, Xinhua news agency reported.

Experts should be sent to areas with a high incidence of HFMD to help treat the patients and train local medical staff, Chen said.

According to Xinhua, the Health Ministry has established a work team headed by Chen and Vice Health Minister Ma Xiaowei to oversee prevention work.

The Shanghai Health Bureau said spring is the peak season for infectious diseases such as HFMD, flu and measles and local health authorities have carried out strategies for "early detection, early treatment and early control" of HFMD.

Hospitals and kindergartens have been ordered to strictly monitor the disease and checks and disinfection were tightened in kindergartens. The city's centers for disease control and prevention have made preparations for a possible epidemic, including epidemiological study and staff training to combat the disease.

HFMD is a common acute infectious disease caused by intestinal viruses and children below 3 years old are the most susceptible. Most children recover within a week, and only a few cases resulted in serious complications, the city health bureau said.

Bilingual information is available on the local health hotline, 12320.


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