The number of Chinese children confirmed dead from hand, foot and mouth disease has risen to 32 with nearly 25,000 people infected, state media said on Friday.
Xinhua news agency reported two new deaths, an eight-month-old girl in southern China's Guangdong province and a one-year-old boy in the southwestern Guangxi region.
AdvertisementThe number of cases nationwide had risen to 24,934 as of Thursday, it said.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is spread through direct contact with the mucus, saliva or faeces of an infected person. Symptoms include fever and sores and can result in death in children due to their less-developed immune systems.
The disease is common in China. More than 80,000 cases were reported last year, with 17 deaths.
However, its rapid spread this year -- just months before Beijing hosts the Olympics in August -- has prompted the government to issue a national alert.
Both China and the World Health Organisation, however, have said there is no fear of a devastating outbreak.
Most of the deaths have involved the enterovirus 71, or EV71, which can lead to acute hand, foot and mouth disease.
However, the outbreak seems now to have turned into a more general outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease, according to state press reports.
The disease has now appeared across eastern, central and southern China as well as the capital Beijing, but health officials have been quoted by state-run media as saying some of the various outbreaks do not seem to be related.
It first emerged in large numbers in eastern China in early March but was not made public until last week, prompting state press to accuse local officials of dragging their feet on raising the alarm.
Anhui province in the province has been the hardest hit, with 22 deaths occurring in its city of Fuyang alone.
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