updated 5/16/2008 9:56:29 AM ET 2008-05-16T13:56:29

The death toll rose to 43 from the hand, foot and mouth disease virus that has sickened tens of thousands of children across China, a report said Friday.

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A 22-month-old girl from eastern Jiangxi province died Thursday in a local hospital, health officials told the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

As of Wednesday, the hand, foot and mouth disease virus had sickened more than 24,934 children in seven Chinese provinces plus Beijing, Xinhua reported.

The number was expected to continue rising after the state Health Ministry last week ordered health care providers to report cases within 24 hours.

The virus has been yet another major concern for Chinese authorities as they prepare for the Beijing Olympics in August. Cases have been reported from Guangdong province in the south to Jilin province in the northeast, and in major cities including Beijing and Shanghai.

Three people in Jiangxi province remain in critical condition from the virus, Xinhua reported Friday.

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

The virus spreads through contact with saliva, feces, nose and throat mucus or fluid secreted from blisters. There is no vaccine or specific treatment, but most children with mild forms of the illness recover quickly after suffering little more than a fever and rash.

The disease is expected to peak in the hot months of June and July.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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