Hand, foot and mouth disease is spreading in China, with the number of cases reported in March doubling that of February, a senior disease control official said on April 9.
“The incidence of hand, foot and mouth disease this year is expected to be worse than last year,” said Mao Qun’an, the National Health Commission’s director of disease control and prevention.
“More than 28,000 cases of the infectious disease were reported in March, twice the number found in February,” he said. “And it has been rising, which means the disease is entering peak season.”
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said hand, foot and mouth disease is a common viral infection among children. Its symptoms include fever, oral ulcers and skin rashes on the feet and hands. Complications can seriously threaten the health of children under 5 and in rare cases can be deadly.
People can become infected through being in close contact with an infected person’s excrement, including feces and saliva, or daily items such as a towel, toys and feeding bottles. Incidence usually peaks in spring and summer.
“Since 2010, the number of cases per year on average has hit 2.06 million and it’s ranked among the top five infectious diseases that can cause death,” Mao said. “Considering that most deaths and severe cases resulted from infection of Enterovirus 71, known as EV71, we urge local governments to expand vaccinations to protect people.”
According to the Chinese CDC, the vaccine that can stop EV71, which was developed by China, entered the market in 2016 and is the only effective one available on the global market. In China, payment for the vaccine is shouldered by individuals. It can effectively prevent EV71-related infections.
However, Zhang Jing, a researcher at the CDC, said the vaccination rate in China was not high.
Vaccination rates in some areas are only 10 percent, but even a vaccination rate above 50 percent can’t stop the virus from spreading, she said.
To prevent and control the disease, Mao called for cooperation between local health departments and education organizations.
“Schools should be aware of their students’ health conditions,” he said. “They should check students every morning and report cases to health authorities immediately.”
“Children should avoid crowded places during the peak period,” Mao said. “If they come down with symptoms, they should stay quarantined at home.”