(Reuters) - Hand, foot and mouth disease, a dangerous intestinal virus, has killed 81 children in Vietnam this year, prompting the prime minister to order ministries and agencies to redouble efforts to stop its spread.

The country recorded 32,588 cases of the disease this year, and the deaths happened in 17 provinces and municipalities, mostly in the southern region, a statement on the government's website said late Thursday.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is relatively common among children, characterized by a fever, sores in the mouth and blistery rashes. There is no vaccine or cure, but patients usually recover in a week without treatment. In severe cases, brain swelling can lead to paralysis or death.

The disease was a "large danger to the health and lives of young children," Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said in a statement. Yet attempts to prevent it were ineffective, he said.

Dung ordered the Health Ministry to coordinate efforts to stop its spread and stronger efforts to boost sanitary conditions in areas with children.

The Vietnam News quoted the health ministry as saying the number of casualties this year was "considerably high."