Changing epidemiology of hand, foot, and mouth disease in China, 2013-2019: a population-based study.


We extracted individual-based epidemiological data on HFMD cases reported to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention between January 2013 and December 2019. We described the changing epidemiological characteristics of HFMD before and after vaccine launch according to the distribution of diseases characteristics (demographic, temporal, and geographical) and evaluated the potential changes in risk factors of severe patients. All analyses were stratified by the phase before and after vaccine launch, and by enterovirus serotype.

During 2013-2019, 15,316,710 probable cases of HFMD were reported. Of these, 787,197 (5·1%) were laboratory confirmed and 76,982 (0·5%) were severe. After the launch of the EV-A71 vaccine, the median age of HFMD patients infected with EV-A71 increased from 2·24 years (IQR:1·43, 3·56) to 2·81 years (IQR:1·58, 4·01). The proportion of patients less than 3 years of age decreased while the proportion of patients 3-5 years of age increased. There was a large decrease (60·7%) in the proportion of severe cases as well as a decline (28·3%) in HFMD patients infected with EV-A71. After the launch of the EV-A71 vaccine, the severe illness rate and mortality rate of HFMD patients in all age groups has decreased sharply, 62·20% and 83·78% respectively. The timing of the HFMD epidemic peak was delayed (1-2 months) . After the launch of EV-A71 vaccine, the risk of becoming a severe case for EV-A71 serotype was decreased, whereas that risk was instead increased for CV-A16 (from 0·17 (95% CI:0·16, 0·18) to 0·23 (95% CI:0·21, 0·25)) and other enterovirus compared to EV-A71 (from 0·38 (95% CI:0·37, 0·39) to 0·58 (95% CI:0·56, 0·61)). The longer the time from onset to diagnosis, the higher was the risk of being a severe case, but the effect size was decreased.

The introduction of the EV-A71 vaccine has effectively reduced the proportion of severe HFMD cases and mortality, but changes to the dominant serotypes should be closely monitored. Development of multivalent vaccines to avoid an increased case burden due to other enteroviruses is greatly needed.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is an important public health problem. A monovalent EV-A71 vaccine was launched in China in 2016. Previous studies showed that inactivated monovalent EV-A71 vaccines were highly efficient against HFMD associated with EV-A71 but not against HFMD with other etiologies, leading to a hypothesis that the introduction of EV-A71 vaccines might change the pathogen spectrum and epidemiological trend of HFMD. In this study, we described for the first time the changing epidemiological characteristics of HFMD after the launch of the EV-A71 vaccine.

This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81973102, 81773487), Public Health Talents Training Program of Shanghai Municipality (GWV-10.2-XD21), the 5th Three-year Action Program of Shanghai Municipality for Strengthening the Construction of Public Health System (GWV-10.1-XK05), the Major Project of Scientific and Technical Winter Olympics from National Key Research and Development Program of China (2021YFF0306000), 13th Five-Year National Science and Technology Major Project for Infectious Diseases (2018ZX10725-509) and Key projects of the PLA logistics Scientific research Program (BHJ17J013).

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