BEIJING, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - A total of 41,800
children in 30 Chinese regions have been infected by the
potentially fatal hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), 18 of
them have died, China's health ministry said on Friday.
The infection rate is currently on the rise, with the peak
period expected between May and June. Four provincial health
officials have already been sacked over the outbreak.
Last year, over 500,000 children in China were infected by
the virus, almost 200 of them died, the China Daily said.
HFMD can be caused by a host of intestinal viruses, but
Enterovirus (EV71) and the Coxsackievirus (Cox A16) are the
most common causative agents. The virus is highly contagious
among children and spreads through the digestive system.
Though the death rate from the enterovirus itself is quite
low, it can cause a number of severe complications depending on
the age of the patient, such as polio and meningitis.