China calls for vigilance in disease outbreak
China has called on medical personnel nationwide to go door-to-door to help curb an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease that has killed 19 children so far this year, state media said yesterday.
Health Minister Chen Zhu urged local medical workers to "visit every village and even every household to detect hand, foot and mouth disease quickly," Xinhua news agency said.
Zhu issued the call on Saturday during a teleconference on disease prevention in the central provinces of Henan and Hubei and the eastern province of Shandong, three areas most affected by the outbreak.
Xinhua said that as of Friday, officials had reported 41,846 cases of the highly contagious disease, which breaks out early each year in China.
The death toll of 19 is one higher than an official count given on Friday.
The cases of the disease, to which young children are most vulnerable, were reported across 30 provinces and regions.
Chen also urged local health authorities to report cases to Beijing promptly and take measures if an outbreak occurred or seemed imminent.
The order appeared to be a bid to avoid a recurrence of last year's outbreak, which infected nearly 500,000 people and killed 128 through the first 11 months of the year.
By comparison, 17 deaths were reported in all of 2007.
State media reports last year had said foot-dragging by local officials had prevented the alarm being raised sooner.
A health ministry spokesman said Friday that 94 percent of those suffering from the disease in this year's outbreak were under three years of age.
One fifth of the cases were in Shandong and Henan provinces, Xinhua said.
Symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease include fever and sores. It can be fatal in children due to their less-developed immune systems.