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Open Access Research article

Estimating the number of hand, foot and mouth disease amongst children aged under-five in Beijing during 2012, based on a telephone survey of healthcare seeking behavior

Xiaoli Wang, Xiaona Wu, Lei Jia, Xitai Li, Jie Li, Shuang Li, Haikun Qian and Quanyi Wang*

  • * Corresponding author: Quanyi Wang

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control, 16 Hepingli Middle Street, Beijing, China

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2014, 14:437  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-14-437

Published: 12 August 2014



Over the last decade, increases in the number of outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) have shifted the disease into the public health spotlight in China. Children under the age of five years are particularly susceptible, with fatalities recorded. However, estimating the burden of HFMD has been difficult to conduct to date.


In 2012, a cross-sectional survey of healthcare-seeking behaviour for HFMD was undertaken, using computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) technology. Sample of telephone numbers was obtained from the Beijing Immunization Information System. Respondents were parents or guardians of children under the age of five. Multiplier model was used to estimate the number of HFMD case, following the telephone survey of healthcare-seeking behavior. The number of laboratory-confirmed cases was also estimated based on the monthly positive rate of each subtype of virus causing HFMD. The age-specific case fatality rate (CFR) was calculated based on the ratio of reported deaths to the estimated number of cases.


For children under five, the consultation rate of parent-defined cases was estimated at 77.8% ((95% CI = [75.2, 80.4]). Parents or legal guardians of children aged between two and four years were more likely to seek healthcare than those of children aged less than two years. For children under the age of five, we estimated that there were 40,165 (95% CI = [38,471, 41,974]) HFMD cases, with an incidence rate of 5.6%, and 22,166 (95% CI = [21,150, 23,295]) laboratory-confirmed cases in Beijing during 2012. The overall CFR was estimated at 10 deaths per 100,000 cases, while for children aged less than two years it was 15.6 deaths per 100,000 cases.


Given the public health impact of HFMD in China, control measures need to be prioritized for children < 2 years, due to the higher CFR in this age group. Sentinel surveillance approaches could be used to monitor trends and the impact of control measures.

Burden; Hand; Foot and mouth disease; Consultation rate