The death toll in China from a virus that preys on children rose to 26 on Monday with state-run media reporting another victim, as the government pressed on with efforts to rein in the outbreak.
The death occurred in eastern China's Zhejiang province, the state-run Zhejiang Online news site said, without specifying when the person died.
AdvertisementIt adds to 22 children who had already died in neighbouring Anhui province and another three reported child deaths in southern Guangdong province.
The virus, known as Enterovirus 71 or EV71, caused the Ministry of Health to declare a national alert over the weekend.
A task force headed by Health Minister Chen Zhu had also been established to liaise with local-level health officials on control efforts, the ministry said.
China's official Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday that 622 new cases had been recorded in worst-hit Anhui province on Saturday alone, raising the number of children infected there to more than 5,151.
Dozens of other EV71 cases have been confirmed in at least four other Chinese provinces, while hundreds of children with symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease were being tested for the virus, the report said.
EV71, which can cause hand, foot and mouth disease, is highly contagious and spread through direct contact with the mucus, saliva or faeces of an infected person. Young children are most susceptible because of lower immune systems.
But the WHO's China representative, Hans Troedsson, on Sunday dismissed claims by Chinese media that local authorities in Anhui had tried to cover up the initial stages of the outbreak.
"The reason why there was a delay in the reporting at the provincial level was that they didn't know what the causes for these different cases were," he told reporters.
The disease -- which begins with fever, blisters, mouth ulcers and rashes -- has spread in Anhui since early March, but the first reports about the epidemic only surfaced last week on Xinhua.
This led to accusations by Chinese press of a cover-up by local authorities -- claims they deny.
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