The death toll in China from an outbreak of a severe intestinal virus that has sickened thousands of children now stands at 34.

China's official Xinhua news agency says two children died in the eastern province of Anhui, where the majority of the casualties have been recorded.

Earlier Friday, authorities said an eight-month-old girl in southern Guangdong province and an 18-month-old boy in neighboring Guangxi province died this week.

The outbreak has been traced to the "enterovirus 71" virus, which causes a severe form of hand, foot and mouth disease that can lead to high fever, paralysis and viral meningitis.

Xinhua says more than 24,000 cases of hand, foot and mouth disease have been reported this year.

Last year, China reported about 80,000 cases of hand, foot and mouth disease, including 17 fatalities. Officials say the number may actually have been higher because reporting was not mandatory then.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt will travel to Beijing next week to discuss the crisis.


Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.