HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A surging outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease has killed 70 people so far this year in Vietnam and infected more than 23,000, mostly children under 5, state-controlled media reported Thursday.
Most of the cases have been reported in the country's south, and enterovirus 71, or EV-71, is the dominant strain circulating in Vietnam, Nguyen Van Binh, head of the Ministry of Health's Department of Preventive Medicine, was quoted by Thanh Nien newspaper as saying.
EV-71 can result in a more serious form of the common childhood disease leading to paralysis, brain swelling or death.
This year's outbreak is a sharp uptick from recent years. Since 2008, about 10,000 to 15,000 cases were reported per year with about 20 to 30 children dying annually.
Binh said the virus has appeared to slow in recent weeks, but the rate remains high with up to 1,900 new cases reported each week.
He warned there could be more new cases when children return to school in early September. The virus is easily spread by sneezing and coughing.
Infection is typically mild and causes mouth sores and blisters on hands and feet. No vaccine or specific treatment exists, but most children typically recover quickly without problems.
The outbreak has swamped hospitals in the southern hub, Ho Chi Minh City, prompting the main children's hospital there to appeal to the government for additional help with funding.