updated 5/12/2008 9:36:31 AM ET 2008-05-12T13:36:31

Five more children have died of hand, foot and mouth disease in China, bringing the death toll to 39 since late March, the official Xinhua News Agency said Monday.

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A girl died in eastern Anhui province from enterovirus 71, a virus that causes a severe form of the disease, Xinhua said. Anhui is the worst-hit province, and was where the first wave of deaths from the disease were recorded in March.

Another child died on the southern tropical island of Hainan and three in southern Guangdong province, but no further details were available about their cases, Xinhua said.

Most cases of hand, foot and mouth in China this year have been blamed on enterovirus 71.

Hand, foot and mouth has sickened 24,934 children in six provinces, Xinhua said. Cases have cropped up from Guangdong province in the south to Jilin province in the northeast, along with major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

Visiting U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said in Shanghai on Monday the U.S. would be willing to help China with the disease.

Hand, foot and mouth spreads through contact with saliva, feces, fluid secreted from blisters or mucus from the nose and throat.

There is no vaccine or specific treatment, but most children affected by mild forms of the disease recover quickly without problems after suffering little more than a fever and rash.

Health experts have said they expect the number of reported infections to rise as a result of a Ministry of Health order last week requiring health care providers to report infections within 24 hours. The disease is expected to peak in the hot months of June and July.

The ailment is unrelated to the foot and mouth disease that affects livestock.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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