Three children died in a recent outbreak of Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease (HFMD) in Jilin City in northeastern China.
The local officials have ordered all area kindergartens be shut down for three weeks and are working to spread materials on HFMD prevention across the city. However, they refuse to inform the public of the current epidemic in the area.
“Jilin has recorded three deaths so far. Authorities have only informed us of the threat to children,” said anonymous person from Tianzhijiaozi Kindergarten.
“Since the outbreak the local authorities have ordered that all kindergartens be shut down for three weeks. Everybody is worried because of the deaths from HFMD,” said a Xingshi Kindergarten staff member.
“Although an infected child will not be in school now, he still can spread the virus to others. HFMD is mainly transmitted through direct, person-to-person contact. When a victim begins to lose his breath, it’s a sign that his life is in danger. Infants and children under five are most vulnerable to HFMD. It causes more deaths among infected children under three years old,” he added.
“These HFMD cases were detected in Jilin City. All kindergartens have been closed since July 21 and will not be opened without a notice from the relevant authorities,” said a staff member from the Yuemiao Kindergarten.
Area residents say the government has been posting materials about HFMD prevention across the city since July 22. Local media organizations have been working with hospitals, communities and educational departments to jointly conduct a vigorous propaganda in an effort to fight the epidemic. Only because the campaign was so strong, did residents realize that something terrible had occurred.
“All cases were reported by media completely. To understand the situation, you simply need to watch TV or read a newspaper,” said an officer at the Jilin Municipal Bureau of Public Health. “As for the latest deaths, the death toll is only allowed to be published by the provincial authorities. A press conference might be conducted if the situation becomes worse.”
The Jilin Children’s Hospital was contacted to see if they had any infected children under treatment, but they gave no response.
“As a mother, I really worry about the disease very much,” wrote one resident on an Internet site. “Why was I not able to find out any relevant media reports regarding the epidemic? Some children have died of HFMD! My kid’s teacher and doctor both told me about it!! Do these officials not have children of their own? How can they have the heart to cover up this information?”