The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Cambodian government are investigating the cause of a mysterious illness that has killed more than 60 children from different areas around the country.
A joint press release by Cambodia’s Ministry of Health and the WHO on Tuesday said that 61 out of 62 children admitted to hospitals have died of the unknown ailment. By Wednesday, Dr. Beat Richner of Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals — who alerted the government to the disease — told Al Jazeera that 64 out of 66 cases had died. All the victims are aged 7 and under, and died with 24 hours of getting to the hospital, typically of complications from pneumonia.
Signs & Symptoms
The disease starts as a high fever, followed by respiratory problems and/or swelling in the brain and then the destruction of the child’s respiratory system, according to the press release. While the majority of the cases have been found in the southern region of the country, the disease has been recorded in victims from 14 different provinces, an official told the Cambodian national newspaper Phnom Penh Post. No obvious clusters have been found.
“This can be a mixture of a number of known diseases — virological, bacterial or toxicological — which have been reported as one syndrome or something new,” Dr. Nima Asgari, a team leader of the WHO country office in Cambodia, told CNN.
Other Countries Asked to Be Alert
Neighboring countries have been officially notified through a post on the International Health Regulations event information system. The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh has yet to issue any special warnings or health alerts.