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Sunday, June 7, 1998 Published at 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

US scientists join Taiwan virus probe

Scientists believe the killer virus may be connected to a similar disease which left 30 children dead in Malaysia

Scientists from the United States have gone to Taiwan to help investigate a virus which has killed 30 children in the past few weeks.

This fast-spreading virus - known as Enterovirus 71 - occurs in the intestines.

Initial symptoms include fever, a skin rash, and ulcers.

First detected six weeks ago, the virus has proved fatal in children under five, most notably newborn babies.

More than 130 children have been infected and are critically ill in hospital.

Task force set up

As the death toll has risen, anxious parents have been calling on the government to take a more decisive lead in tackling the virus.

Last week the Taiwanese authorities set up a centralised control team in Taipei to study the disease and fight its spread.

Two experts from the United States-based Centre for Disease Control and Prevention have flown to Taiwan to join the battle.

It has been suggested that the deadly virus is airborne and is spread by physical contact.

As a result some parents have kept young children away from schools and other public places as a safeguard against possible infection.

Adults are also thought to be vulnerable, but so far the only fatalities have been among children.

Government officials have documented about 120,000 cases, but some specialists say the real number could be as high as 300,000.

Scientists are also examining connections with a similar intestinal virus which broke out in Malaysia last year and killed 30 children.

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04 Jun 98 | Asia-Pacific
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