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Death toll in Chinese hand, foot and mouth outbreak reaches 39

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The death toll in the current outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease in China climbed to 39 on Monday as authorities announced the deaths of five more children in provinces across the country, the Xinhua news agency said.
BEIJING, May 12 (RIA Novosti) - The death toll in the current outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease in China climbed to 39 on Monday as authorities announced the deaths of five more children in provinces across the country, the Xinhua news agency said.

The disease has spread rapidly in China since March, when children aged between two and six began to be admitted to hospitals in the central Chinese province of Anhui displaying symptoms of the potentially fatal virus.

The latest fatalities came as three children died in the southern province of Guangdong, and two deaths were reported in the eastern Anhui province and the island province of Hainan, the agency said.

A total of 27,500 children had been infected in China as of last Friday, Xinhua said earlier.

China's health ministry said on Monday that the epidemic had been brought under control and the number of infections was decreasing.

Enterovirus 71 and Coxsackievirus, major causative agents for hand, foot and mouth disease, are being blamed for the epidemic. 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.

The high death toll has led to fears that the virus has mutated, but the World Health Organization said there was 'no indication of a change or a more virulent virus.'

The disease is expected to reach its peak in June and July, shortly before the Beijing Olympics starts in August.

Russia's health ministry has tightened health checks of people arriving in the country from China. Chinese authorities have pledged to notify Moscow if there is any danger of the virus spreading to Russia.

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