Singapore (ANTARA News/Xinhua-OANA)- Singapore reported 815 cases of children infected with the hand, foot and mouth disease last week, surpassing the mark of 780 cases a week that indicate the onset of an epidemic.

It was the first time since 2010 that the number of cases surpassed the epidemic levels, local daily Straits Times reported on Thursday.

The number of hand, foot and mouth diseases have been high in recent weeks in Singapore. The latest spike brings the number of cases up to last week to 3,457 this year -- more than double that in the corresponding period last year, said the Ministry of Health.

A center of childcare chain Pat`s Schoolhouse was forced to close for 10 days from last Wednesday, with more than 16 children taken ill there.

Another five childcare centers are now on the watchlist. These centres either have more than 13 percent of their enrollments or more than 10 children each coming down with the disease within a 16-day period.

So far this year, 17 childcare centers and kindergartens have been put on the watchlist and six had to be shut for 10 days.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Health said the number of children hospitalized was low, but did not give a figure. No severe cases have been reported by the two public hospitals where the children are staying.

The unusual thing about this year`s outbreak is that it is coming at the start of the year, a departure from previous patterns of peaking nearer the school holidays between March and May, and between August and October.

Children infected by the virus responsible for the disease typically develop ulcers in their mouths, and on their hands and feet. Most of the cases can heal by themselves but some could be dangerous.

The Ministry of Health said the surveillance of hospitals and clinics does not indicate that the uptrend is related to the dangerous EV71 strain.

Doctors are advising parents to develop good hygiene habits in their children, such as washing their hands before meals and not sharing food and utensils. Children should be kept at home if they are ill so that others will not be infected. (*)

Editor: Heru Purwanto
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