Airports Looking for Ill Travelers

Passengers arriving at international airports from some countries will go through intensified health screening following the onset of a deadly virus in several Asian countries.

Chief epidemiologist Gennady Onishchenko has ordered regional authorities, and especially those in areas bordering China, to examine passengers coming from that country for signs of hand, foot and mouth disease, and called on Russian travel agencies to inform their clients about the danger. In line with the increased screening measures, Novosibirsk epidemiologists are training airport workers to diagnose the symptoms of the disease. Most, if not all, current cases of the disease in China have been caused by enterovirus 71, or EV71.

"So far, the measures that have been taken are adequate for the current situation," Andrei Fedyanin, an official with the Moscow branch of the Federal Consumer Protection Service, said Thursday.

To lower the risk of contracting the intestinal infection, tourists going to Asia should avoid drinking water from ponds, lakes and rivers, reduce contact with the local population and leave children under age seven at home, as they are most susceptible to the disease, he said.

Symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease include fever, rashes and peptic disorders. About 85 percent of all people infected, however, exhibit no symptoms but remain carriers of the disease, Fedyanin said.

As of Saturday, the virus had killed 34 children in China and 11 people in Vietnam, Reuters reported.

Novosibirsk airport workers are examining and questioning passengers on board flights coming from China and some other Asian countries. Passengers with symptoms of the disease will be quarantined upon arriving in Russia. The agency has also asked airport officials to wear rubber gloves and surgical masks while handling passengers' documents from May to July, when the risk of enterovirus contagion is the highest.

Onishchenko urged authorities in the Chita, Amur, Khabarovsk and Primorsky regions and in the Jewish autonomous region to pay special attention to the danger of infection.