The death of a child in south China has raised fears that a virus that has already killed 22 is spreading, as authorities called Saturday for better controls of infectious diseases before the Olympics.
The 18-month-old boy died Friday in Foshan city bordering Hong Kong, from what was probably hand, foot and mouth disease, triggered by the intestinal virus enterovirus 71, or EV71, the health department there said.
"The test results are not out yet, but that's what we suspect," said an official at the department, identifying himself by his surname Yu.
He told AFP another death in the same area in late April was less likely to have been caused by EV71.
Alerted by the new risk, the Ministry of Health on Saturday urged local health bureaus to step up the prevention and control of infectious diseases ahead of the Olympics, the state-controlled Xinhua news agency said.
Epidemics have broken out repeatedly in some regions, especially after unusual weather and population movements, the circular said.
The ministry ordered health officials to keep to watch out for not only on hand, foot and mouth disease, but also cholera, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria and meningitis.
The earlier 22 deaths among children from EV71 were in Anhui province in eastern China, where another 3,300 have also been infected.
EV71, which can cause hand, foot and mouth disease, is highly contagious and spreads through direct contact with the mucus, saliva or faeces of an infected person. Young children are most susceptible because of lower immune systems.
The disease -- which begins with fever, blisters, mouth ulcers and rashes -- has spread in Anhui since early March, amid accusations by the Chinese media of a government-led cover-up of the epidemic.
Five other cases of EV71 have been confirmed in the city of Hangzhou in eastern Zhejiang province, while 16 children were earlier reported to have fallen ill in Henan province, which borders Anhui.
In central Hubei province, 340 children were confirmed to have hand, foot and mouth disease, and local officials were testing them for EV71, state media said earlier.