Emergencies preparedness, response

Enterovirus in China – update

As of 5 May, 4,496 cases, including 22 deaths, of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) due to enterovirus 71 (EV71) have been reported among infants and young children in Fuyang City, Anhui Province, China. There are currently 1,391 cases receiving medical care in hospital, with no additional deaths for 5 consecutive days.

HFMD became a notifiable disease in China on 2 May. Because of this change in reporting policy and the increased awareness of the general public about the disease, it is expected there will be an increase in the number of reported cases in the next weeks and months from Anhui province and the rest of China.

The Government of China has assured WHO of its strong technical and political commitment to control the disease in Anhui and other provinces. In addition to enhanced surveillance, as there is no specific treatment for enterovirus infections and a vaccine is not currently available, a nation-wide health campaign is ongoing, stressing the need for personal hygiene, especially hand washing. Additional resources have also been provided to paediatric health care providers by the Ministry of Health.

HFMD is a common and usually mild childhood disease. EV71 is a frequent cause of HFMD epidemics associated with neurological disease in a small proportion of cases. There have been a number of outbreaks of EV71 HFMD in the Asia-Pacific region since 1997. Outbreaks have been reported in Malaysia (1997), Taiwan , China (1998), Australia (1999) and Singapore (2000) among other areas in the region.

WHO advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions relating to China while reinforcing the need for prevention through enhanced personal hygiene.