With the upcoming Olympics, China is in the spotlight. The Chinese Health Ministry, scrambling to fend off cover-up allegations, issued a nationwide alert Saturday over a virus that has killed 24 children and sickened more than 4,000 others.
In milder cases, EV71 can cause cold like symptoms, diarrhea and sores on the hands, feet and mouth. But more severe cases can cause fluid to accumulate on the brain, resulting in polio-like paralysis and death (the journal Genetic Vaccines and Therapy). Public health officials expect the number of cases to peak in June or July. There is no effective antiviral treatment for severe EV71 infections, and no vaccine is available. This disease also has broken out in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam, although no deaths have been reported there.
The viruses mainly strike children aged 10 and younger and is easily spread by sneezing or coughing. A public awareness campaign is ongoing, stressing the need for good personal hygiene, mostly by hand washing.