Common childhood virus kills 81 Vietnamese kids

By the Associated Press | August 19, 2011 | 2:20 AM EDT

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam's prime minister has put the country on alert as hand, foot and mouth disease continues to surge, killing 81 children and sickening more than 32,000 nationwide so far this year.

A government website said Friday that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has called for stepped-up efforts to prevent and control the spread of the common childhood illness. It is raging hardest in the country's south, where nearly 80 percent of cases have been reported.

The disease is typically mild, with its telltale symptoms of rash, mouth sores and blisters covering hands and feet. However, the World Health Organization's acting country representative for Vietnam says a more severe strain has been identified in about a third of the cases.