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Child-killing virus hits Beijing

  • Story Highlights
  • Hand-foot-mouth disease has sickened 24,934 children in China; 42 have died
  • Illness is caused by virus; not related to foot-and-mouth disease in animals
  • There is no vaccine and no treatment for severe cases, which can cause paralysis
  • Adults with healthy immune systems can usually resist the disease
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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- The death toll in China's outbreak of hand-foot-mouth disease has risen to 42 children, with the capital Beijing reporting its first case Wednesday, state media said.

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Parents sit with children being treated for the virus in Fuyang, China, last month.

The child died on the way to a hospital Sunday, health authorities told the Xinhua news agency.

Another child died of the virus at a Beijing hospital, but that death was counted in the child's home province of Hebei, which neighbors Beijing, the news agency said.

So far, the virus has sickened 24,934 children on the Chinese mainland, authorities said. All 42 people who died have been children.

The deaths are blamed on enterovirus 71, or EV-71, one of the most common causes of hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD).

The official count of infections has increased dramatically in recent days since an order issued late last week by the Ministry of Health mandating that all cases be reported.

HFMD is not related to foot-and-mouth disease, which affects farm animals. HFMD can be caused by a number of intestinal viruses, of which EV-71 and Coxsackie A16 are among the most common.

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In mild cases, EV-71 causes cold-like symptoms, diarrhea, and sores on the hands, feet and mouth. Severe cases can cause fluid to accumulate on the brain, resulting in polio-like paralysis and death.

There is no treatment for severe EV-71 infections nor does a vaccine exist. Adults with well-developed immune systems can usually fend off the virus, but children are particularly vulnerable to it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public health officials expect the number of cases to peak this summer, since the disease thrives in warm weather.

The virus is a concern for Chinese officials as the nation prepares to host the Summer Olympic Games starting August 8.

Taiwan had a large outbreak of HFMD in 1998 with 78 deaths, and smaller outbreaks in 2000 and 2001, according to the CDC.

China is also coping with the devastation left by a magnitude-7.9 earthquake that struck Monday, killing thousands and leaving even more people trapped in debris or simply listed as missing.

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