The previously unexplained deaths of 52 Cambodian children were caused… (National Institutes of…)
The previously unexplained deaths of at least 52 children in Cambodia have been linked to an outbreak of a virulent virus that causes a severe form of hand, foot and mouth disease, officials from the World Health Organization and the Cambodian Ministry of Health said Sunday. The children ranged in age from 3 months to 11 years old, with most being under the age of 3 years.
Laboratory tests conducted by France's Institut Pasteur du Cambodge showed that 15 of 24 children tested showed evidence of infection by enterovirus 71 (EV-71). Samples from the rest of the children were not obtained before their deaths.
Hand, foot and mouth diseaseis most often caused by coxsackievirus A16, which produces a relatively mild form of the disease and which is widespread throughout Asia. EV-71 is much rarer, but produces a much more lethal form of the disease, especially in children whose immune systems have been compromised.
The disease occurs mainly in children under the age of 10, but most commonly in those under the age of 5. The disease usually begins with fever, malaise, poor appetite and, frequently, a sore throat. One or two days after onset, painful sores develop in the mouth, beginning as small red spots that subsequently blister and often become ulcers. A rash may also develop on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, and occasionally on the buttocks or genitalia.
The disease is spread by contact with fluid from the blisters, stool and discharges from the throat and nose.
There is no vaccine against the disease and no specific treatment for it.
A team that includes scientists from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently trying to track the outbreak and determine its origin.
EV-71 has also become a problem in Vietnam and China. Last year, more than 110,000 people were infected by the virus and 166 died. In China, more than 240 people have died from it this year, according to China's Health Ministry.