Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Eathquakes and viruses

Ok, so the very fact that I am posting this should be enough to say that I am ok, and neither Phil or I were affected by yesterday's earthquake in Sichuan province.

In fact, neither of us even felt it, although many people in Shanghai's high-rises did notice tremors from the quake. Sadly, the quake has killed many children (1000 at present but the tolls are still rising), as the 7.8 magnitude quake struck in the middle of the school day, collapsing schools and burying the children alive.

Map showing Chengdu and Chongqing (the biggest cities hit in Sichuan province), and our location to the east in Shanghai.

At the moment however, my school is actually more concerned about the death toll from Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (more specifically the EV71 strain which differs from the more common strain infecting children worldwide).

PLEASE NOTE: The following information on this post is intended for your personal interest only, and should not be substituted for advice from trained medical practitioners!
SHANGHAI Center for Disease Control and Prevention has detected enterovirus 71, or EV71 in 18 patients suffering hand, foot and mouth disease.
Shanghai Daily 12 May 2008
Every morning, the concerned parents of my 2-3 year old nursery students question me at the door of our classroom. They want to know what measures we are taking, and should they keep their children at home.
HFMD has infected 24,934 children on the Chinese mainland, of whom 39 died in the provinces of Anhui, Guangdong, Hainan, Hunan and Zhejiang, and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Shanghai Daily 13 May 2008
So far our school has taken the following measures:
  • All children wash their hands with anti-bacterial gel when they arrive at school;
  • No parents are allowed to enter the classroom;
  • No games, toys or books from home will be allowed into the classroom;
  • The children eat lunch and snack provided by the school;
  • There are no swimming classes, and no borrowing from the library;
  • School assemblies have been cancelled;
  • Extra curricular activities involving staff, parents and families have been cancelled.
It is certain that should a child in our school contract EV71 the school will be shut. What remains to be seen is whether or not it will stay open in the coming weeks even if no children fall ill.

This post has been updated with more info on HFMD:

Hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is quite common in China, and indeed in the rest of the world. Cases of HFMD crop up nearly every year at my school, and while the affected children stay home and their class is quarantined (plays in different areas, does not attend school functions, etc), it is not very serious. However, in those cases, the HFMD syptoms are caused by the more common Coxsackie A16 virus. The Enterovirus-71 (EV-71) is more serious, and while the initial symptoms are the same, the EV71 virus can cause viral meningitis, and, less commonly, encephalitis (both of which can be fatal). It is the EV71 virus that has caused the recent deaths in China.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is mainly a childhood disease, occuring rarely in adults, unless they have weak immune systems. It is not uncommon among infants and children, and it spreads easily through contact with mucus, saliva and feces. It is characterized by fever, sores in the mouth and a blistery skin rash.

It has an incubation period of 3 to 7 days and it usually starts with general listlessness, poor appetite, and a slight fever, often accompanied by a sore throat. One or two days later, painful mouth sores develop, starting as small red spots that blister and turn into ulcers. They usually appear on the tongue, gums and the inside of the cheeks.

The non-itchy skin rash usually breaks out on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet and develops over 1 or 2 days, starting as red spots that can be flat or bumpy, sometimes with blisters. Some children also get the rash on their buttocks. In some cases no rash is present, only the mouth ulcers, and in other cases, the mouth ulcers occur with no rash.

In a few cases it can lead to high fever, meningitis, encephalitis, pulmonary edema and paralysis.

Paralysis is more common in infants under two years of age, while meningitis is more common among infected 2 to 5 year olds.

Unfortunately there is no vaccine and no cure, and there is a high rate of death among children seriously ill with the disease.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is not to be confused with foot-and-mouth disease, which affects cattle, sheep and pigs. -source


Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is an infection of young children in which characteristic fluid-filled blisters appear on the hands, feet, and inside the mouth.


Coxsackie viruses belong to a family of viruses called enteroviruses. These viruses live in the gastrointestinal tract, and are therefore present in feces. They can be spread easily from one person to another when poor hygiene allows the virus within the feces to be passed from person to person. After exposure to the virus, development of symptoms takes only four to six days. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease can occur year-round, although the largest number of cases are in summer and fall months.

An outbreak of hand-foot-and-mouth disease occurred in Singapore in 2000, with more than 1,000 diagnosed cases, all in children, resulting in four deaths. A smaller outbreak occurred in Malaysia in 2000. In 1998, a serious outbreak of enterovirus 71 in Taiwan resulted in more than one million cases of hand-footand-mouth disease. Of these, there were 405 severe cases and 78 deaths, 71 of which were children younger than five years of age.

Hand-foot-and-mouth should not be confused with foot and mouth disease, which infects cattle but is extremely rare in humans. -Source


Girl Clumsy said...

Hey Louise,

Glad to hear you're all right. It certainly was a massive quake - I was at the newsdesk here as it developed last night. The death toll jumped from 100 to 5000 in the space of two hours. Now it's up to 10-000, and all those children as you say, just horrid.

That hand, foot and mouth disease looks positively awful - what does it do? I mean, how can it get bad enough to kill?

Louise said...

hey Natalie,

I've updated the post with more info about hand foot and mouth disease- go to the end of the post to read about it.

Yes, I'm sure we haven't heard the final toll regarding the earthquake... hope it's not too many more people. Horrifying stuff.

Girl Clumsy said...

Hey Louise, thanks for that. It really is truly gross. Can't believe I'd never heard of it before!