A fast-spreading viral outbreak in China has killed 22 children, sickened nearly 3,600 others and caused panic among parents in an impoverished corner of Anhui Province, government health officials said Friday.Two months. 22 dead. 3,500 others sickened.
All of the fatalities, from lung problems and other complications, have been in children younger than 6, with a majority of them under 2.
The outbreak, caused by a particularly strong intestinal virus, enterovirus 71, or EV-71, has been spreading in the city of Fuyang, in east-central China, since early March. Provincial health officials, however, announced the outbreak only this week, raising questions about whether they had been trying to conceal it.
Anhui province is the 9th most densely populated province in China, therefore the rapid spread of this disease is not surprising, from that aspect.
However, enterovirus 71 is, or rather is supposed to be, a fairly common & well-known virus, usually passed on within family units. The damage wreaked by e71 is usually confined to children in the form of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD), and results in some neurological damage. Polio is an example of another enterovirus. It's usually passed on by touching infected feces and then a mucus membrane like an eye or mouth.
That's the scary part. It's possible, given the rapid spread, that the virus has somehow become an airborne pathogen, although the fact that this is happening in northern China, with its recent water cleanliness issues, there's a simple contaminated drinking water problem.
Well, maybe "simple" is a bad word to use in this instance...